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.