March Madness Basketball Book for Teen Boys
My kids have an elementary school reading competition conjured brilliantly up by our wonderful gym teacher and our old literacy specialist. Each class draws a team from the NCAA. They get extra points as their team advances but most of the points come from reading during the month of March and the scoring method is based on the amount of time spent reading. Two grades compete against each other (K versus first grade, and 2nd – 5th Grade). The winning class wins an extra session of Physical Education.
My kids are VERY SERIOUS about winning. The competition started on a Friday, and they each read for an hour that night — a first for us! I have noticed over the years that this month of intense reading always seems to boost my kids’ reading ability and it seems to be motivated especially to boys who like the basketball element as much as the competition.
The Final Four by Paul Volponi
I discovered another book that fits this March Madness NCAA theme. Though I usually only follow the NCAA when UCLA is in the running, I found The Final Four to be a riveting read. Told from the point of view of three players, Volponi successfully weaves the players’ personal stories together while centering around the NCAA final four-game itself, and simultaneously sucking in the reader into a pulsing, adrenaline filled rush.
Usually, I find chapter books with alternate character narration to be both confusing and choppy so I was really impressed with how well this story hung together. The four players couldn’t be more different but Volponi’s players’ stories are realistic as well as gritty. Though the players themselves have accepted the grim reality from which they come from, the reader can’t help but be drawn in. Much like the Olympics, where the stories are often more memorable than the race or the game, the winners AND losers are equally compelling.
The Underdogs: Troy University Trojans from Troy, Alabama
He’s the Center from war-torn Croatia, still haunted by his uncle’s death by a mafia car bomb, but finding the American dream through his balling skills. He finds McBride’s trash-talking brashness annoying and immature. He’s earned his place here. No one works harder on the court or appreciates this opportunity more. As the glue who holds this team together, he is a big reason why his team is much more than a sum of its parts.
He has his own Helen of Troy and she seems to be their good luck mascot but will their streak end if he loses her? Suddenly, the Greek story is a little too close for comfort because he seems to be King Menelaus and there might be Paris lurking about.
The Veterans: Michigan State Spartans from East Lansing, Michigan
Malcolm McBride is One and Done. One year to play for the Spartans then off to NBA stardom after his obligatory year playing college hoops. Basketball is his ticket out of the projects which have already cost his sister’s life. He’s bitter about playing as an amateur and isn’t afraid to be the prima donna. Teamwork isn’t his middle name, but his coach can count on him to get it done. One and Done.
Michael Jordan is named after the basketball legend but isn’t quite that caliber. Does he have the confidence to step up his game for the Final Four game when he usually warms the bench?
Gritty and realistic to the end, this chapter book ends in a satisfying yet unexpected way where winning is based on luck and skill, good guys don’t necessarily finish first, and losers are the ultimate winners. I highly recommend this book. Try it with boys who like basketball, and anyone who cheers for a team during the NCAA. Reluctant readers are guaranteed to finish this book because they simply will not be able to put it down!
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.