Sports columnist Mike Lupica is also a young adult novelist who is gaining quite a following in the middle school crowd, particularly among boys. His tween sports books focus on sports and the pressure on young athletes. Like sports themselves, the books end up being about much more as Lupica also explores the themes of friendship, perseverance and family, often exploring the father-son relationship. He’s an author to consider if you have a tween sports enthusiast on your hands.
For younger tweens: Game Changers Series and Comeback Kids Series
This series is Lupica’s most recent work. In Game Changers: Book 1, Ben McBain, age 11, loves football and could be a great quarterback, but the starting job goes to the coach’s son, Shawn, who is bigger and faster. Ben tries to befriend Shawn and finds it isn’t easy, and that Shawn’s life isn’t as easy as it looks, either. School Library Journal said of the book, “The tone is inspiring without crossing into didacticism.”
Spoiler Alert: Ben becomes the star quarterback midway through the season, which strains his budding friendship with Shawn. In the end, Ben throws a huge pass at the end of the last game of the season, and Lupica explains that he images Ben to be as Doug Flutie would have been at age 11.
Game Changers Book 2: Play Makers was just released on Feb. 5, 2013. It picks up where the first book left off. Ben is coming off his football high and starts basketball season, where he gets knocked down quite a few pegs. As Lupica explained on the Today Show, “Not every book can end with throwing the game winning pass, and this is about that.” I loved that.
“Why do I play the sport?” becomes the question Ben asks himself, and along the way he realizes that he plays for the love of the game. Both books captivate tween sports fans and are about teamwork, friendship and the fact that playing a sport shoudn’t feel like a job.
Lupica’s other series, Comeback Kids, is written for kids age 8-12 and focuses on normal kids becoming the heroes of their teams and the importance of teamwork. It consists of five books: Hot Hand; Two-Minute Drill; Safe at Home; Long Shot; and Shoot Out. As you can guess from the titles, they are about football, basketball and soccer.
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For Older Tweens
Other Lupica books are targeted at older kids, those 10 and up. They touch on more mature issues and continued to deal with flawed dad and their complicated relationships with their offspring.
Travel Team is about Danny Walker, who gets cut from his local travel team, the very same team his father led to national prominence as a boy. The book jacket says, “Danny’s father, still smarting from his own troubles, knows Danny isn’t the only kid who was cut for the wrong reason, and together, this washed-up former player and a bunch of never-say-die kids prove that the heart simply cannot be measured.”
The Big Field is about a boy who dreams of play shortstop but instead ends up at second base after the best shortstop since A-Rod joins the team. School Library Journal said, “Lupica offers another heartwarming, action-packed, sports-savvy novel.”
Miracle on 49th Street features a tween girl as one of the main characters. “Josh Cameron is MVP of the championship Boston Celtics and a media darling with a spotless reputation. He has it all . . . including a daughter he never knew. When twelve-year-old Molly Parker arrives in his life, claiming to be his daughter, she catches him off guard…. Together, these two strangers learn that sometimes, for things to end up the way you want them to, you have to fire up a prayer at the buzzer and hope it goes in.”
These books could be just the thing to get your sport-loving tween to love reading, too.