By Andrea Stahlman
Louisville News Director Andrea Stahlman has scoured bookstores and the internet, looking for timely and interesting books for her sports-obsessed son, who isn’t interested in reading about anything that can’t be found on Sports Center. “I would open up Dr. Seuss or Sesame Street, and he would give me this strange look, or start playing with his toys. As he grew, he struggled with reading, so finding something he enjoyed was already critical,” says the former Notre Dame volleyball player and mother of three boys. Thus her search for good sports-themed books started. Andrea’s made a list of some of her favorites, and I added a few of mine. If you have a son or a daughter who loves sports, here are 16 sports-themed books we recommend.
16 Great Books for Sports-Obsessed Kids
- Babe Ruth Saves Baseball by Frank Murphy. Beginner book for kids ages 6-8. In Andrea’s household, it was, “An early favorite, requested nightly!” It’s 1919, and people are throwing down their bats. It’s up to Babe Ruth to save the game of baseball.
- Amazing Athletes by multiple authors. For kids ages 7-11. There are more than 80 books in this series! Each book tells the biographical success story of an “amazing athlete.” Some of the athletes featured include Steph Curry, Clayton Kershaw, Russell Wilson, Anthony Davis, Carli Lloyd, Roger Federer, Michael Phelps, Serena and Venus Williams, Shaun White, Aaron Rodgers; there is even a book about the horse, American Pharoah. “These books were a godsend,” says Andrea. “People my son was seeing on TV – their story, in an easy-to-read format, with words he could understand. I picked up everyone I could find!”
- Ballpark Mysteries by David A. Kelly. For ages 6-9. “When they get to chapter books, this is a good place to start,” advises Andrea. This series has 12 mystery books, with each book set in a different ballpark in America. Your kids will like the action, mystery, and baseball in these books. The writer is even able to sneak in some history lessons.
- Victory School Superstars Series by various authors. For ages 6-8. There are 23 titles in this set by Sports Illustrated Kids. This is a great series of chapter books that tackle nearly every sport! From Cheerleading Really is a Sport and Skiing Has its Ups and Downs to There Are No Figure Eights in Hockey and Nobody Wants to Play with a Ball Hog, this series is jam-packed with life lessons told through sports.
- Playing with Purpose by Mike Yorkey. For young adult readers. This is a collection of books about the lives of well-known athletes and their faith. The stories profile sports role models and their strong Christian faith. “I found them to be very inspirational,” says Andrea. Tim Tebow, Kevin Durant, Drew Brees, and Josh Hamilton are just a few of the featured athletes.
- Family Huddle by Peyton, Archie and Eli Manning, and Jim Madsen. For ages 4-8. A cute book about famous football brothers Peyton and Eli when they were growing up and a trip to their grandmother’s house. Great for kids who like football and are familiar with the Manning family.
- The Football Genius Series by Tim Green. For ages 10+. There are three books in this best-selling series, including Football Hero. The story of a boy who lost his parents and has to go live with his uncaring and unscrupulous uncle who is caught up in gambling. The book deals with the mafia, bullying, the lessons of right and wrong. The other two books are Football Champ and Football Genius.
- Comeback Kids Series by Mike Lupica. For ages 8-12. There are 5 books in this series. Andrea’s family favorite was Shoot-Out. Jake, the main character in the book, goes from being a decent player on his old team to the star of his new one. Hot Hand, Two-Minute Drill, Longshot, and Safe at Home are the other titles in the series.
- Home Team Series by Mike Lupica. For ages 8-12. This series starts with The Only Game and is followed by The Extra Yard. The first book is about a boy who, amidst family tragedy, helps lead his Little League team to the World Series. Book number two focuses on football and a junior high school-aged character who has gone from being the kid who was picked on to the one everyone wants on their team and now is adapting to his father being back in his life after a long absence. Along with developing deep family relationships and characters who overcome struggles, Lupica fills his books with sports facts and references. There are even mentions of current sports controversies, like deflategate.
- The Contract by Derek Jeter and Paul Mantell. Ages 8-12. “This book was a huge hit with my son and a bunch of his friends,” says Andrea. Inspired by the upbringing of baseball great Derek Jeter, whose parents created a contract for their son to help him focus on school and achieve his dream of becoming a shortstop for the New York Yankees. This is the first of 10 planned books in the series. The second is Hit and Miss, and the third, Change-Up.
- Who Was? Series by various authors. Ages 8-12. There are dozens of books in this series of biographical books. “You can’t go wrong with a good non-fiction sportsbook, written in an easy-to-understand style,” says Andrea. “They have to learn this stuff anyway! Mine started out reading the sportsbooks, then asked to read books about other historical figures. Win-win.”
- Throw like a Girl by Jennie Finch and Ann Killion. Ages 10+. “A fantastic book about the impact sports can have on young women, developing confidence and helping them make smart choices,” says Andrea, who believes it is a great book for both girls and boys. “Because every young man should learn what this phrase really means!”
- The Middle School Rules Series, by Sean Jensen and various athletes. Ages 9-14. So far in this series, there are two books, as told by former NFL beat writer Sean Jensen. The Middle School Rules of Brian Urlacher and The Middle School rules of Charles “Peanut” Tillman each tell the real-life story of its NFL star in a middle schooler’s voice. Jensen’s mission with the series is to “inspire greatness in the next generation by highlighting the importance of being your best, overcoming adversity, and reaching your dreams through discipline and hard work.” (Read our review HERE)
- John Madden’s Heroes of Football by John Madden. Just like its author, legendary football coach, and broadcaster, John Madden, this book is packed with information about the game of professional football. From its beginnings with roots in rugby to Montana, Walsh, and the West Coast Offense. The detailed reference book includes a glossary of football terms, illustrations of the 4-3 and 3-4 defense, and facts, figures, stats, and stories on many of the NFL’s legends.
- Cal Ripken, Jr.’s All-Star Series by Cal Ripken Jr. and Kevin Cowherd. Ages 9-12. There are six books in this series aimed at young adults. Anyone who likes baseball will love these books about the life lessons learned on and off the field by the kids on one baseball team. The books are inspired by Hall of Famer Ripken’s life and the struggles he had as a kid playing baseball. Start with Hothead, the first book in the series, about one of the boys dealing with his hot temper.
- Big Book of Who series by the editors of Sports Illustrated for Kids. Ages 5-18. Series of reference-style books. There is The Big Book of Who Basketball and The Big Book of Who All-Stars. Of course, in my house, my son loves the Big Book of Who Football. 101 football stars every fan needs to know.
Andrea Stahlman is a mother of three boys. She played volleyball at the University of Notre Dame and is currently the News Director at WLKY-TV in Louisville, Kentucky.