Hoop Genius
Hoop Genius
John Coy, illus. by Joe Morse
ISBN 9780761366171
Carolrhoda/Lerner, 2013.
4 stars
Keywords: basketball history hoop-genius james-naismith john-coy sports

Hoop Genius
by John Coy, illus. by Joe Morse

John Coy (the 4 for 4 series) here blends his proven knowledge of sports with a fascinating picture-book history of basketball.

Following in the footsteps of two failed teachers, James Naismith hopes that three's the charm. In December 1891, he takes on a "rowdy" gym class in Springfield, Mass. The first day, Naismith tries indoor football, the next day, indoor soccer, and on the third day, lacrosse. All are too rough, but Naismith will not give up. Instead, he comes up with a whole new game. Coy shows that, for Naismith, necessity is the mother of invention. Building on a game from his childhood in Canada, "Duck on a Rock" (for which "accuracy was more valuable than force"), Naismith added the idea of a goal that required "an arcing throw." On December 21, 1891, with a soccer ball, two peach baskets and a posted list of rules, he found success. Joe Morse's (Casey at the Bat) illustrations in a limited palette stay true to the era in style and detail, yet also convey the unbridled enthusiasm and kinetic energy of the players.

Readers will quickly see why the young men couldn't wait to teach their friends and neighbors the new game, and why it caught on. Naismith was also ahead of his time in permitting women to play the game (and it paid off--one of them later became his wife). Naismith's original rules of the game on the endpapers top off a terrific story to share with basketball fans of all ages.

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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