Tundra Telegram: Books that Got Game

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we dig into the topics readers are talking about and recommend some recent great books to continue the process.

Last week – Thursday, June 16, to be precise – the 2022 NBA Finals were decided, as the Golden State Warriors beat the Boston Celtics in the sixth game of the series. Immediately, the Pistons in our mind started firing, and just like Magic – and in the Knick of time – we had an idea. Spurred by the NBA championships, we’re thinking basketball.

So, spend some (hang) time with us as we recommend basketball books for yourself or the young ballers in your life. These are books with moves so smooth they’d make the Harlem Globetrotters shout “Sweet Georgia Brown!” And you can find most of them with nothin’ but ‘Net (the Internet, that is – you can find them in bookstores, too). Best of all, there’s not a single brick among them.

PICTURE BOOKS

What better book to start your reading with than one by the actual 2022 NBA Finals MVP (and pride of Akron, Ohio), Stephen Curry? I Have a Superpower, illustrated by Geneva Bowers, fictionalizes Curry’s own journey to the NBA to inspire the next generation of go-getters and big dreamers. The book teaches kids you don’t have to be the strongest, fastest, or even tallest kid out on the court – any goal is achievable through hard work. heart, and determination. No capes required!

If you want to get a kid who loves b-ball into phonics, Actiphons: Billy Basketball is the book for you. Actiphons is a series of stories that help the youngest readers practice 70 letter sounds – each with its own fun character and action. And the hero of this book, Billy Basketball, is not feeling well – on the injury roster – but he would rather not rest and play basketball outside. Don’t overdo it, Billy!

Like to learn a little history with your literature? You might like Basketball Belles: How Stanford, Cal, and One Scrappy Player Put Women’s Hoops on the Map by Sue Macy and Matt Collins. The book depicts the birth of women’s basketball by telling the story of Agnes Morley and the first ever inter-collegiate women’s basketball game in April 1896 (University of California at Berkeley vs. Stanford), an event that garnered national attention and put women’s basketball on the map.

Canadian hero Terry Fox may be known for long-distance running, but – as Terry Fox and Me by Mary Beth Leatherdale and Milan Pavlovic reveals – Fox had a lifelong love of basketball. He was reportedly a terribly player at first, but met childhood friend Doug, who noticed Fox’s his characteristic strength, determination, and loyalty – even at a young age. Doug helped Terry practice his hoops until he earned a spot on the team. And the rest is history . . . just not basketball history.

A Cat Named Tim and Other Stories by John Martz may not have a lot of basketball content, but in one of the wordless stories, Tim does try his paw at basketball. Let’s just say he’s no Air Bud.

MIDDLE GRADE

If you’re into basketball, you’re going to want to learn about the giants of the NBA, so you should start with Kirsten Anderson and Dede Putra’s Who Is Michael Jordan? to learn about the legendary Chicago Bull who changed the game. And follow that up with Ellen Labrecque and Gregory Copeland’s Who Was Kobe Bryant? to read about the career and legacy of the iconic Los Angeles Laker.

MIDDLE GRADE

Ben Hardy is new in school and thinks he can make an impression with the cool kids with a harmless prank in the very funny My Life as a Potato by Arianne Costner. Only problem is, his prank ends up causing the school’s mascot to break their ankle! And so Ben, in some cruel and unusual punishment, is sentenced to serve as the mascot – a giant potato – during the school’s final basketball games. Can Ben hide the fact he’s under the big potato skin and maintain his cred?

Combining the fast-paced action of the NBA playoffs with dynamic photos and poetry? It’s not Kurtis Blow‘s “Basketball,” but Hoop Kings 2: New Royalty. Poet Charles R. Smith has written a dozen poetic odes to the superstars of the NBA like Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin, filled with more wordplay than a Kevin Harlan broadcast. Want to read some verse extolling the virtues of The Beard, James Harden. Of course you do!

And few children’s authors write sports like Mike Lupica, who turns his attentions to the court with No Slam Dunk. Wes is a player who tries to live by his father’s words and be a good teammate, sharing the ball and the spotlight. But his team’s new point guard, all-star Danilo “Dinero” Rey has different ideas. He always the ball and the attention, even if it costs his team the game. Wes will need to figure out a way for them to work together to emerge victorious.

YOUNG ADULT

Tons of Toronto teens have hoop dreams, and that’s true of fifteen-year-old Regent Park native Fawad Chaudhry in H. N. Khan’s YA novel Wrong Side of the Court. He wants to be the first Pakistani to be drafted into the NBA. He just needs to get over his father’s death, avoid an arranged marriage to his cousin, dodge his bully Omar, and reconnect with his grieving friend Yousuf first. Oh, and make the school team, too!

Maybe Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson’s fun and pulpy teen murder mystery The Agathas doesn’t scream basketball to you. But the prime suspect in the case of a girl’s disappearance is Steve, the school’s basketball star and – coincidentally . . . or not? – ex of heroine (and one of the “Agathas” who uses the works of Agatha Christie to solve the mystery) Alice Ogilvie. We’re not going to pretend you’ll read about anyone putting three in the key in this book, but it’s basketball adjacent!

And just because this year’s champions were the Golden State Warriors, we had to mention Namina Forna’s blockbuster The Gilded Ones. Not a single bounce pass is made in Forna’s epic fantasy, but the book’s protagonist, Deka, does join an army of girls whose blood runs gold during their culture’s blood ceremony. They sound like Warriors fans to us!