Thanks to Alyson Beecher's Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge at Kidlit Frenzy, everyone shares wonderful non-fiction picture books.
John Coy must love basketball because he's recently written the story of James Naismith, Hoop Genius: How A Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball, which I reviewed here, among other books about basketball. Randy DuBurke does all kinds of art according to the book jacket, and in this picture book shows the mood of this clandestine game beautifully, in faded blues, and the art's theme is action, action, action.
This book is also about basketball, but about much more. Its story is not surprising, but what occurs is something that shows the courage of those people in history that have continued to make a difference in the way others lived. This time, it's about John McLendon and his "Eagles" from the North Carolina College of Negroes, waiting to play Duke University's Medical School Team, all white. The Duke players hid behind quilts at their car windows as they crossed to the "other" side of Durham. At that time in 1944 "race-mixing" was a crime punishable by death.
The players started slow, learning each other's "game". The story tells that some of these players had never before been this close to a person of a different color. And at the end, Duke players were astounded at the new faster game played by the black team. They lost by a lot of points!
Then they switched it up, mixing the teams, and played again. Later, they talked back at the dorms. It was a revelation to each: they all loved basketball. The end quote shows McLendon's idea well: "I just wanted to further the idea that we all played basketball, that we all played it well, and that we should be playing it together." This happened three years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, and much more had to happen before all teams welcomed all races. Coach McGlendon was a pioneer and later inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
The book's endpapers are a delight, showing nothing but what are basketball players, but from the shins down. There is an author's note, a bibliography and a timeline, too.
For all those young girls who also cannot sit still comes the story of famous gymnast Nadia Comaneci. It begins with her early childhood with small examples of how she loved so many things that kept her moving, like bicycles and roller skates, but especially climbing trees. Her also famous coach Bela Karolyi discovered her at her school, watching her turn cartwheels across the playground, and she was invited to join his gym. She went on to become the youngest gold medal winning gymnast at fourteen, in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Illustrations by Christine Davenier show Nadia’s motion through the entire story, including happiness in all the pictures. There is a timeline and a bibliography. It is a nice introduction to this famous gymnast, but for someone who wants more, a story with real photographs will also be inspiring.
Have a wonderful reading week everyone!