This picture-book basketball history spotlights how James Naismith came to invent the game now played around the world.
Stylized illustrations in tones resembling tinted sepia prints depict riotous students playing indoor sports, accumulating more injuries with each page turn. The text asserts that they “had already forced two teachers to quit. / [Naismith] didn’t want to, but nobody else would teach that class,” setting the scene for Naismith’s realization, seemingly self-prompted, that a new game with less physical contact was needed. Memories of childhood games lead to his eureka moment. However, with so little context provided, readers may question where this class was being held, why the “boys” look like men the same age as Naismith and how Naismith came to work with them. The original rules of “Basket Ball” are printed on the end pages, and the players’ enthusiasm for the game is evident, but details such as court dimensions and where baskets were hung are not included. Perhaps in a nod to Title IX, youngsters learn that Naismith taught the game to a group of women, and the book ends with a note about the game’s inclusion in the 1936 Olympics.
Given its limited scope, both hoops fans—who will be familiar with this story from rule and sports-history books—and newbies may feel this book has left them circling the rim. (author’s note; selected bibliography) (Informational picture book. 5-10)