Review: Hoop Genius

Hoop Genius: how a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball

by John Coy, illustrated by Joe Morse

Find it at: Your library | Amazon | Indiebound

Published: Carolrhoda Books (January 1, 2013)

Recommended reading age: 5 & up

In a nutshell: Today is Selection Sunday, the official kick-off of the March Madness basketball craze. It’s an exciting time of the year for all ages and also an excellent opportunity to think back on when it all began. Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball is a look inside the very early beginnings of basketball, featuring it’s inventor, James Naismith.

In 1891, James Naismith took over teaching a very rowdy gym glass that had forced previous instructors to quit. To engage the class who was bored by calisthenic activities, he tried his hand at getting them to play indoor football, soccer, and lacrosse with no success. Naismith almost gave up, but he then imagined a game he used to play when he was a boy and how it could be modified so that it was an active game off the ground with two goals. Using two peach baskets and a soccer ball, the classes’ attention was demanded. They couldn’t get enough of Naismith’s new game, and so the evolution of basketball was set into motion.

Around Lawrence, Kansas, most kids grow up learning who James Naismith was not because he is the inventor of basketball, but because he was the founder of University of Kansas basketball. So, I’m fairly confident that this book will be hit around town, but I also see it’s appeal extending beyond basketball and sports fans. James Naismith’s story is about innovation. Taking a problem that no one else wants to deal with, being determined, and brainstorming a solution – a solution that ends up fostering enthusiasm within his gym class, and today has turned into one of the most celebrated athletic games of all time. The story is fairly short with a message all young readers will enjoy, and illustrations that are sure to capture attention.

My favorite pagespread is the last… Obviously because it is a nod to James Naismith’s heritage at KU with the basketball players in their Jayhawk crimson and blue. Nicely done, Joe Morse. Very nicely done.

Don’t take my word for it: review from 100 Scope Notes

Extras: More info about author John Coy as well as artwork by illustrator Joe Morse.

If you’re in the Lawrence area, Watkins Museum Community Museum of History has an excellent exhibit More Than A Game: Basketball and Community

You can also learn more about James Naismith from the Kansas Historical Foundation.

Interesting tidbit: To this day, James Naismith was the only KU basketball coach ever to have a losing record. (via Visit Lawrence).

Source of book reviewed: My local library!


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