Perhaps our kids would have loved basketball anyway, but the hour after school my kindergartner already spends putting up shots and the camps both kids go to on winter break certainly point to my husband's influence. They study at the feet of a master. And, occasionally, they read good books.
Like most fans of the game, my husband counts Michael Jordan as the best there's ever been. We're LeBron fans, so we see the potential he has to surpass Jordan's achievements, but he will probably never be quite what Jordan was to the game. At the library this week, we picked up Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream by Deloris Jordan with Roslyn M. Jordan and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. I love Nelson's illustrations. He has such a strong hand and attention to detail. The story here, written by Jordan's mother and sister, is similar to Paul's. Jordan feared he was too short, wanted to grow taller, worked harder, had strong family support, and got better. It's well-written and a good example, but the ending is a bit abrupt. The last page of picture books is often a problem, I've noticed. It seems many authors don't quite know how to taper their story and just stick a platitudinous conclusion on to what had been a thoughtful and well-constructed story. Overall, though, it's a good addition to any basketball library.
Finally, when I saw that NetGalley had a new title about Naismith's 1891 invention of the game, I knew we had to read it. Written by John Coy with illustrations by Joe Morse, the book Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball is an engaging history of the game for kids (recommended 7-11). Morse's illustrations are brilliant - so vivid and angular, reminiscent of vintage circus posters or similar. Besides the art, though, this book is solidly written. It is accessible to young readers while still being informative and smart. It tells the story of how Naismith was trying to come up with something - anything - that would keep a gym class occupied without hurting themselves or each other. Football, soccer, and lacrosse all proved too dangerous, so he dreamed up basketball. The end papers of the book include Naismith's original rules to the game posted in that first gym, and it is remarkable to me how much of the game has stayed true to its origination. I was also rather astonished that he made up the game at the end of 1891, and by 1936, it was already internationally known, enough to be an Olympic sport. That's what you call going viral. The book is set to be released March 1st, just in time for a little madness. If you love basketball as much as we do, you'd be a little mad not to look this one up.