Not every kid can be a pro athlete, which might crush either their spirits or yours depending on their interest and your level of delusion. Every kid can dream, though, and more importantly, every kid can learn the great life lessons sports teach: teamwork, sacrifice, hard work, practice, humility, relationships and adorable taunting. Even better, they might learn to appreciate one of your favorite pastimes: falling asleep on the couch while watching games. That day might take a while; in the meantime, you can at least lull them to sleep with these 9 sporting tales.
The Highest Number In The WorldGabe (Gabriella) Murray is a-okay being the youngest, newest, and even the only girl on the best hockey team in town — until she’s given number 9 instead of her lucky 22 and nearly quits. Gabe’s grandma schools her on the number’s legendary history: Richard, Howe, Gretzky, and her own peewee days masquerading as a boy just for the chance to play. Gabe soon envisions her own number 9 being immortalized, hopefully prompting your kid to change their “lucky” underwear.
The Highest Number In The World by Roy MacGregor and Genevieve Despres ($16)
Baseball Saved UsThis is a heartwarming, “underdog triumphs” tale and, if sports books are anything like sports movies, there will be a few more on this list. It’s also a “kid and his dad build a baseball diamond to lift the spirits of Japanese American internment camp prisoners after Pearl Harbor” tale, so there probably won’t be any more of those on this list.
Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki and Dom Lee ($9)
Soccer StarYoung Brazilian Paulo Marcelo Feliciano dreams of soccer super stardom, but his little sister, to whom he teaches soccer moves every day, shines after a key player’s injury. Soccer Star teaches acceptance and celebrates Brazil’s diverse culture and the hope of its poor for a better future. Not that you’re resting your future hopes on your kid’s scholarship opportunities and pro prospects. Not at all …
Soccer Star by Mina Javaherbin and Renato Alarcao ($14)
America’s Champion Swimmer: Gertrude EderleNot only did Trudy Ederle win 3 Olympic medals at age 17, she was the first woman to swim across the 20-mile English Channel. She also did it in world-record time, defying 1920s conventions that expected women to stay home and … stay home. The next time your kid complains that some classmate of theirs shouldn’t be allowed on their team, tell them to talk to Trudy.
America’s Champion Swimmer: Gertrude Ederle by David A. Adler and Terry Widener ($6)
Learning To Ski With Mr. MageeMr. Magee could blame his disastrous first ski run on his old-timey woolen knickers, his antique bindings, the moose in the middle of the trail, or even the fact that he’s attempting to ski with his dog, but those are poor excuses. The fact is, he french fry’d when he should have pizza’d, and now he’s having a bad time.
Learning To Ski With Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen ($12)
Good SportsThe veritable all-star team of legendary kids’ poet Jack Prelutsky and Caldecott Medal winner Chris Raschka come together here to deliver a stellar book of sports rhymes. Every athletic pursuit your kid could possibly jam into their already jam-packed after-school schedule is represented in a bit of verse about winning, losing, and (most importantly, James Harrison) having fun.
Good Sports by Jack Prelutsky and Chris Raschka ($8)
Tillie The Terrible SwedeAround 1893, Tillie Anderson tore up her fancy lady’s dress and sewed herself a scandalous cycling outfit in both form and function. The tight-fitting getup allowed her to become a world champion racer when most women were doing dainty circles around a maypole, and prove long before Lance Armstrong that you don’t need 2 testicles to rule the cycling world.
Tillie The Terrible Swede by Sue Stauffacher and Sarah McMenemy ($15)
Z Is For ZamboniAs the title suggests, “Z is for ‘Zamboni'” in both this alphabet book and the official alphabet of Canada. Fortunately, “Gretzky” and “Great One” both start with “G,” or a whole generation of Canadian children would have been very confused by a book that otherwise does a fine job of teaching the ABCs. Although not as confused as when they find out “A” isn’t for “Eh,” eh.
Z Is For Zamboni by Matt Napier and Melanie Rose ($7)
Jim Thorpe’s Bright PathJim Thorpe was a Native American who overcame personal tragedy and discrimination to become America’s most dominant athlete on the track, where he won the 1912 Olympic pentathlon and decathlon gold medals (that would be confiscated then returned 30 years after his death following a protracted legal battle). He also (oh, by the way) was an All-American and professional football player, and played pro baseball and basketball. So yeah, dude’s pretty much your kid’s mandatory first sports hero.
Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path by Joseph Bruchac and S. D. Nelson ($10)