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Basketball Brothers

I had already decided to do a blog during Black History Month called Basketball Brothers.  It was going to feature just two recent fiction titles that focused on the bond that comes from playing ball together.  Then Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020.  The tragic loss of this American basketball legend prompted me to expand my scope.  Basketball helped him form bonds with the whole world . . . and his daughter.  A memorial service for Kobe and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna is planned for February 24, 2020.  It seats 20,000 people.  It won't be enough.

The Crossover Graphic Novel by Kwame Alexander & Dawud Anyabwile
Twins Josh and Jordan are junior high basketball stars, thanks in large part to the coaching of their dad, a former professional baller who was forced to quit playing for health reasons, and the firm, but loving support of their assistant-principal mom. Josh, better known as Filthy McNasty, earned his nickname for his enviable skills on the court.  In this novel in verse, the brothers begin moving apart from each other for the first time. Jordan starts dating the "pulchritudinous" Miss Sweet Tea, and Josh has a tough time keeping his jealousy and feelings of abandonment in control. Alexander's poems vary from the pulsing, aggressive beats of a basketball game to the more introspective musings of a child struggling into adolescence. Despite his immaturity, Josh is a likable, funny, and authentic character. Underscoring the sports and the fraternal tension is a portrait of a family that truly loves and supports one another. Alexander has crafted a story that vibrates with energy and heart and begs to be read aloud.  Watch the book trailer! for this adaptation of the Newbery Medal-winning novel.

Dough Boys by Paula Chase
Deontae “Simp” Wright has big plans for his future. Plans that involve basketball, his best friend, Rollie, and making enough money to get his mom and four younger brothers out of the Cove, their low-income housing project.  Long term, this means the NBA. Short term, it means being a dough boy—getting paid to play lookout and eventually moving up the rungs of the neighborhood drug operation with Rollie as his partner.  Roland “Rollie” Matthews used to love playing basketball. He loved the rhythm of the game, how he came up with his best drumbeats after running up and down the court. But playing with the elite team comes with extra, illegal responsibilities, and Rollie isn't sure he's down for that life. The new talented-and-gifted program, where Rollie has a chance to audition for a real-life go-go band, seems like the perfect excuse to stop being a dough boy. But how can he abandon his best friend?  Listen to The Children's Book Podcast interview with the author.

Epic Athletes: LeBron James by Dan Wetzel
Whether you call him King James or simply LeBron, one thing is certain: LeBron James is THE face of the NBA. At just eighteen, and facing sky-high expectations, LeBron headed straight from high school to the pros. Cool under pressure, he went on to shatter the record books and become the most popular athlete in America. Yet nothing was ever handed to LeBron. As a kid, he had to move homes constantly, even separating from his mother for a time. But through all the adversity, he took his natural talent and combined it with hard work to set himself on a path to greatness. 

Epic Athletes: Stephen Curry by Zeke Peña
When you think of Stephen Curry, one word comes to mind: greatness. From shooting three-pointers with laser precision to his clutch ability to hit buzzer-beaters time and again, he has established himself as one of the best players in pro basketball. But greatness was never a guarantee for Steph. The son of a talented NBA player, he dreamed of one day playing professionally just like his dad. Yet Steph, who was always smaller and weaker than the competition, was told over and over that he would never be talented enough to be a college star or NBA player--let alone the MVP of the entire league. Through tenacity and hard work, he proved them all wrong and went on to dismantle the record books. 

Who Is Michael Jordan? by Kirsten Anderson
Meet the man who changed the game forever. Michael Jordan has always been competitive--even as a young boy, he fought for attention. His need to be the best made him a star player on his college basketball team and helped him become an NBA legend, both for his skills and his endorsements. His Nike contract for Air Jordan basketball shoes set an unmatched precedent for professional athletes. Author Kirsten Anderson takes readers through each exciting moment, detailing the iconic reverse lay-ups and jump shots of Michael Jordan's storied career.

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