Gift Ideas: Middle Grade Books for Kids Who Love Sports


It is not always rainbows and butterflies when it comes to getting young people to read. We live in a world where there are so many things that are competing for their attention that it can be very difficult sometimes to convince them that books not only feed their brains, but they also can take you on wonderful adventures and captivate you with great stories. To me, the best stories, especially for young readers, are the ones that are are relatable. Stories that you can completely picture yourself in or someone else that you know can be some of the best stories that you have ever read. To see things that you know about articulated into an entire book can sometimes be gratifying as we often don’t know the right words to use to describe our experiences.

Which brings me to this latest post…

I have a friend who has a child that absolutely loves sports, but she struggles to find books that keeps his attention so I have been tasked with finding some books that he may like. I have seen a few books YA books in passing but never gave them a 2nd glance because I figured that Rahni would never read them because she’s really not into sports. I didn’t consider that just because there was a guy on the cover with a helmet on, that there may be a great story behind the cover. As I started doing my research and reading excerpts,  I found quite a few books that I not only think my friends son would love, but I also want to read them myself!

Below are some of the great books by some great authors that I have picked out during my search. If you have read any of them I would love to hear your thoughts and if you have any suggestions, please feel free to drop them in the comments!

If you have a reader that reads middle grade level books and loves sports, maybe they will enjoy some of these selections too!

*Synopsis are taken straight from the author’s or retailer’s site.

The Crossover

Synopsis: Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story’s heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.

Suggested for ages: 10 and up

Why I chose this book: Many reasons, but mainly because it is poetic prose and the summary sounds very interesting. Kwame Alexander takes a story about basketball and makes poetry of it in the form of a chapter book and to me, that is absolutely brilliant! While reading the excerpt, I found myself reading the verses first as regular prose and then as poetry, and it made the experience so much more exciting. I really think this is a book that readers can come back and find new meaning as they progress in age and maturity.

Other books by Kwame Alexander  similar to Crossover


Synopsis:Nick Hall lives and breathes soccer. But when he’s sidelined by an injury, his word-loving father takes the opportunity to try to instill a love of reading into his reluctant son. Nick’s mother leaves for a job out of state, he and his best friend hit the skids, he’s dealing with a bully, and on top of all of that, he has to navigate the highs and lows of a first crush.

The Playbook

Synopsis: Illustrated with photographs by Thai Neave, The Playbook is intended to provide inspiration on the court of life. Each rule contains wisdom from inspiring athletes
and role models such as Nelson Mandela, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Carli Lloyd, Steph Curry and Michelle Obama. Kwame Alexander also provides his own poetic and uplifting words, as he shares stories of overcoming obstacles and winning games in this motivational and inspirational book just right for graduates of any age and anyone needing a little encouragement.

To read more about Kwame Alexander and his other books click here.



Heart of a Champion by Carl Deuker

Suggested for ages: 12 and up

Synopsis: Jimmy Winter is a born star on the baseball field, and Seth Barnam can only dream of being as talented. Still, the two baseball fanatics have the kind of friendship that should last forever. But when Seth experiences an unthinkable loss, he’s forced to find his own personal strength–on and off the field.

Why I chose this book: Again, I am a sucker for a great plot. After reading chapter 1 I found myself wanting to know more about Jimmy and Seth. I am not a huge fan of baseball nor do I understand it a great deal and the great part is that I don’t need to in order to enjoy this book. Friendship, growing up, loss, love, joy and pain- who cannot relate to those things on some level? Also, Carl Deuker’s storytelling is phenomenal! I think that like the books by Kwame Alexander, these are also great ways “sneak” in a little something extra besides just sports.

Other books by Carl Deuker similar to Heart of a Champion


Synopsis: When high school senior Jonas moves to Seattle, he is glad to meet Levi, a nice, soft-spoken guy and fellow basketball player. Suspense builds like a slow drumbeat as readers start to smell a rat in Ryan Hartwell, a charismatic basketball coach and sexual predator. When Levi reluctantly tells Jonas that Hartwell abused him, Jonas has to decide whether he should risk his future career to report the coach. Pitch-perfect basketball plays, well-developed characters, and fine storytelling make this psychological sports novel a slam dunk.

Painting the Black

Synopsis: In his senior year of high school, late bloomer Ryan Ward has just begun to feel the magic of baseball—the thrill of catching a wicked slider, of throwing a runner out, of training hard and playing hard. His friend Josh, the star of the team, has helped Ryan push his limits. But when Josh clearly pushes the limits too far, Ryan is faced with a heartbreaking dilemma: he must choose between his love for the game and his sense of integrity.

To read more about Carl Deuker and his books click here.



The Walk On by John Feinstein


Suggested for ages: 10 and up

Synopsis: Alex has the better arm, but Matt has more experience—and the coach’s loyalty. Alex finally gets a chance to show what he can do when Matt is injured, and he helps win a key game to keep the Lions’ bid for the state championship alive. But just when his star is rising, Alex gets blindsided—the state has started drug testing, and Alex’s test comes back positive for steroids. Alex knows that’s not right. But he doesn’t know if it’s a mistake—or if someone wants to make sure he can’t play. . . .

Why I chose this book:  As you all know from a previous post, I love good books that are in a series. Sometimes a story can be over sooner than we are ready to say good bye to our new fictional friends. Luckily for us, with this series called Triple Threat, we don’t have to. In this series Alex, the protagonist is a triple threat in high school sports. He is a new kid in a new town trying to prove himself and navigate through his new life. The story line is pretty solid and at times it deals with some heavier issues for a middle grade series, however, they are real life topics that a lot of kids deal with or go through. I think John Feinstein has done a great job of really creating great stories around the sports, not just about them. I can see some really great lessons and discussions coming from this series.

Other books by John Feinstein similar to The Walk On

The Sixth Man

Synopsis: It’s basketball season. And for once, triple threat Alex Myers is not the one in the spotlight. There’s a new new guy in town, Max Bellotti—and he promises to turn the Lions’ losing streak around and lead the team to a conference title.
Alex is psyched, but some of the older guys on the team resent being benched in favor of an upstart freshman. And when Max comes out as gay, not everyone takes the news in stride. Snide comments and cold shoulders escalate into heated protests and an out-and-out war with the school board. While controversy swirls around them, the Lions have to decide: Will personal issues sink their season, or can they find a way to stand together as a team?

The DH

Synopsis: Alex Myers’s football and basketball seasons were mired in controversy, and his dad’s been MIA since his parents split up. All Alex wants this spring is to work on his fastball and hang out with his maybe-girlfriend, Christine. But he runs into unexpected competition. Matt Gordon was suspended from sports after he admitted taking PEDs during football season, but the athletic board has decided to give him another chance. So he’s on the team—and he’s got something to prove. He’s also got his eye on Christine.
The question this season—is all fair in love and baseball? Or are some things truly unforgivable?

To learn more about John Feinstein and his books click here.



Summer Reading Book Haul

Just in case you guys did not know, we have started a You Tube channel!!

It has been a huge learning experience, but we are having so much fun! Please check out the page and subscribe!

We will post all of the videos here as well so that you can easily access them.

Thank you for your continued support!

May Book Club Pick Jacky HA-HA by James Patterson

We have tried to start a book club in the past with no avail because  either people were too busy or just not interested. So, instead of giving up, we decided to do something different and have a virtual book club. For the book club,  Rahni will pick out a book to read and then she will come back in a month to the blog and NEW YouTube channel and review the book. We think that this will make it a lot easier for both parents and readers as they don’t have to physically be at a place to meet, and also, if they miss this month’s pick, they can pretty much jump in whenever it is convenient for them.

The purpose of the book club is to inspire reading in all ages, but mainly to get other kids motivated and excited about books! When children see their peers doing things, it tends to make it look more attractive or fun, so the hope is that by doing more with the blog and YouTube, kids will find inspiration to pick up more books.

If you have suggestions on books to read, please do not hesitate to comment on the blog or on YouTube!

Thank you for your continued support and for stopping by!


Summer Learning

School has officially been out 3 full weeks and Rahni has been hitting it hard and I could not be more impressed with her! For the last 2 weeks we have been refreshing addition facts and working on the multiplication facts that she has not memorized (4, 6,7,8,9). So far we had to review multiplication facts of 3 for a full week and we just finished with 4’s so next week we will put factors of 6 into the mix. She is doing pretty good, I must say, and I think that her understanding that multiplication is just addition over and over (arrays)  makes things a lot easier. That is one thing that I am thankful for with Common Core. Just that one thing so far though. 🙂

As far as reading goes she dove head first into comics and graphic novels a couple years ago and has not looked back since! We recently made a trip to a couple of local comic book stores, The Book and Music Exchange and also The Great Escape and Rahni racked up! She seems to be pretty pschyed about The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, a new comic from Marvel that came out December 2014. She got the lastest copy #6 and now wants to get all of them, of course. Also, she got a few Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers which were pretty expensive considering how old and not so great they looked. I assume that these will only go up in value over the years so I feel pretty confident that the price was justified. Another favorite from her haul is Archie Comics Sabrina The Teenage Witch. From what I have researched the comics for this particular series originated in around 1971. We so far have been able to procure about 30 comics but there are several out there because there seems to be at least 3 different series she appears in not including the Little Archie series. Luckily, we were able to find a lot of the volumes available for digital download on the Archie Comic website for her to read, but our goal is to obtain more paper copies for her collection.

Although it’s been hard to tear her away from her comics she has also been making time for at least a chapter a day of Harry Potter and the Sorcer’s Stone (book 1). She is just now taking it seriously after us purchasing it about a year ago. I think she got discouraged because the words were complicated and some of the concepts were still foreign to her. What a difference a year makes! At my suggestion that she start the book over with new eyes, she started re reading it last week and has 2 chapters to go before she’s finished. Since she is swearing that she has never seen the movie Sorcere’s Stone, (which I know isn’t true because we own all the movies and I have watched them a million times)  I told her that if she finished the book and did the questions from this absolutely awesome guide that I found online, (which you can access here) that she and I would make a night of watching the movie and comparing it to what she’s read. I must confess, I am a bit more excited than she is.

I must say  that I had forgotten how great the books were! When I read them as an adult and it literally took me days to read each one because I was so enthralled with the story. While I did allow my imagination to do most of the work in Sorcer’s Stone, I will also admit that reading them became much easier after having character voices and faces along with landcsapes and visual refernces to use from the movies. Now, seeing it through her eyes and hearing her feedback, it’s almost like a new experience. I will definitely be reading book 2 with her. It’s funny because she says to me the other day, “it’s weird that Snape is a teacher because he seems like a bad guy or Harry Potter’s enemy.” I couldn’t say much for fear of ruining everything. Also, I want to hear and see her reaction once she puts everything together in the Deathly Hallows and see if she has more resolve not to cry like a blubbering idiot like myself and so many others did. Since she is my child, the chances of her not are pretty slim lol!

We don’t have much by the way of a reading list because our focus this summer is to read for comprehension and finding a deeper understanding and meaning in texts. Though she will always have free reading forever and always, her required reading this summer is just 2 books, Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets. I think that the relationships and scenarios are so complex in the Harry Potter books that we could literally spend endless amounts of time analyzing and discussing them. Also, the fact that she is really getting into them and is wanting to duscuss these things makes it that much more of a great opportunity now.

Even though we don’t have a summer reading list we would still LOVE to hear from you guys about what you’re reading and suggestions. Please email us or comment to let us know!

We’ll be posting soon about Read Aloud so stay tuned!






Readers Assemble!

LOVE this!!!!!!!!


The six super heroes mashed-up with the ALA's public library symbol: Batman, The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman, Wolverine, Batgirl, and Spider-Man.

A while back I made a mash-up logo with Batgirl and the ALA public library logo.  It was a blast to do, and ever since then I’ve wanted to do more super heroes (even though they don’t have the awesome library tie-in that Batgirl has).

It took one awesome stranger tweeting about how much she liked my Batgirl to rekindle the creative fire in me.  As a result, it took me one evening to throw together five more images with Bruce’s help.  I can’t thank him enough for teaching me Photoshop, and then being such a good critic. Here’s the larger/individual images:

Batman with cape, reading a good book. Yellow image on black background.Two-tone green Incredible Hulk on a purple background.A blue, red, and yellow Wonder Woman on a lighter blue backgroundA yellow, blue, black and grey Wolverine on a red background.A yellow Batgirl on a purple background.A red, blue, black, and white Spider-Man on a black background.

Likely these won’t be the last, and hey, let me know if you’d like me to try my hand at anyone else.  I have a few ideas for villains, and even going outside of the super hero genre.  Previously I’d also created a few football ones:

A black and gold Saints football player on a gold background.A white and red Nebraska Cornhusker football player on a red background.

As always…

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So your students are starting to read chapter books!…

Excellent post that we are immediately incorporating into Rahni’s weekly reading journal for school! Check it out!!


We are so pleased to have the amazing Jennifer Serravallo back as a guest blogger this week sharing her expertise on reading comprehension with all of us. Jen is the author of the Independent Reading Assessment for grades 3, 4, and 5 in Fiction and Nonfiction (Scholastic, 2012, 2013) and of the Heinemann titles Teaching Reading in Small Groups (2010) and Conferring with Readers (2007). She’s a speaker and independent literacy consultant who worked for 8 years at the TCRWP. You can find her at or follow her @jserravallo. This week you can find her right here on chartchums! Welcome Jen!

So your students are starting to read chapter books!…

(But although it looks like reading, are they really getting it?)

It’s that time of year in many primary classrooms. The time when readers go from reading and re-reading stacks of short books at lower levels…and start reading (drumroll…

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Podcast now available on iTunes


First off, I can’t believe I was able to submit the podcast correctly. Only after 30 plus tries because my image was not within the correct parameters for the iTunes store, was I able to get a successful upload. Now, if I can only remember what I did for the next time-_-.
The first episode is a “rough draft” as I really just wanted to see of I was able to do it correctly. I have ideas for how and what I want this to evolve into and it will take a great deal of diligence and focus one part. I’m super excited at the possibilities and I hope that you guys will be able to come along for the ride with us!
Sidebars: who but me would give the wrong address for their blog? If you’re here that means you akreDh know the address, thankfully! 😉 for those wanting to subscribe to future episodes of the cast you can listen here on the blog, or follow us on Soundcloud or subscribe on iTunes.