Books for Sports Fans

Sports Fans by Susan Fry

Most kids sleep with stuffed animals. My youngest son, on the other hand, likes to curl up around a very different toy – his basketball.

I’ve met lots of other toddler sports fans. But except for Madlenka, Soccer Star, which I reviewed as one of the books of author-illustrator Peter Sis, I haven’t found a sports story that my kids ask for again and again.

Even though she doesn’t officially write fiction, Gail Gibbons may fill the gap.


Gibbons is the queen of kids’ non-fiction. She writes and illustrates books about everything from gorillas to vegetables, hurricanes to dinosaurs. Like many of her other books, Gibbons’ delightful sports mini-series – My Soccer Book, My Baseball Book, My Football Book, and My Basketball Book – has just the right mix of low-key simplicity and educational punch, all combined with a dash of drama.

Gibbons begins with the equipment a player needs to play each game – useful for clueless adults who may not realize that their sons need shin guards and long socks for soccer. Then, top-view diagrams of a football field, a baseball diamond, and a basketball court carefully label every line and player’s position – again, useful for clueless adults. Finally, Gibbons breaks the sports’ complex rules down into a few lines. “There are usually eleven players on a team,” she writes in My Soccer Book. “These players work together, trying to score the most goals for their team. To score, the ball must go into the other team’s goal.”

While the text is often simple, the illustrations – friendly line drawings filled with bright colors – contain more detailed information. This technique allows a parent to choose which level of information to present to children of different ages.

My favorite part of each book, however, is when Gibbons cleverly veers into fiction, dramatizing a game in each sport. She introduces two teams, with names like “The Honeybees” or “The Dragons” and different-colored uniforms. She nicely includes kids of both genders and multiple ethnicities, too. As she describes how the games progress – with a smattering of strategy for the older kids – Gibbons’ voice takes on the cadence of a sports announcer: “There are only a few seconds left in the game . . .  the Rockets try for one last field goal. BOOM . . . and it’s in for three points!”

Kids – and clueless adults – may close the books feeling as though they’ve experienced the game as well as learned the rules.

The four books are even satisfying to hold. Each one has a jaunty, distinctive stripe around the edges, and the unusual square shape, about the size of a CD case, is perfect for little hands.

My Soccer Book, by Gail Gibbons

My Baseball Book, by Gail Gibbons

My Football Book, by Gail Gibbons

My Basketball Book, by Gail Gibbons

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications. You will find links to all of her children’s book reviews on our Toys & Books page.

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