Middle Grade Sports Nonfiction

It isn’t hard to figure out why we hold sports in such high regard. We love winners, but especially when they beat the odds. For many athletes, sports are the key to a better life, but getting there isn’t easy. It takes hard work and rare talent. These stories are stories of inspiration. Read them and be amazed.

Undefeated by Steve Sheinkin

Jim Thorpe was a native American who went on to become a football legend. After being sent to Carlisle Indian School to help him become “civilized”, he took up football to alleviate his homesickness. He and his team worked hard, and went on to beat the four best teams in their league: Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Penn.

Attucks! by Phillip Hoose

In the 40s and 50s, black kids in Indianapolis attended a segregated high school called Crispus Attucks. The basketball team wasn’t allowed to play public schools. When the Board of Education finally agreed to allow Attucks to play public schools, the city of Indianapolis witnessed a champion team in the making.

The Boys in the Boat (Young Readers’ Edition) by Daniel James Brown

In 1936 an unlikely team of rowers from the University of Washington overcame the odds to win Olympic gold. The story follows the tumultuous upbringing of Joe Rantz during the Great Depression and his strong motivation to better his life. What happens at the Olympics in Germany is edge of your seat drama. 

Outcasts United by Warren St. John

When Luma Mufleh saw a ragtag group of immigrant boys playing a pick-up game of soccer in her suburb outside of Atlanta, she felt sure she could make a team out of them. With little money, no field, an unsupportive mayor, and language barriers, Luma used her no-nonsense approach to turn these 10-18 year olds into an impressive team.

42 Is Not a Number by Doreen Rappaport

Jackie Robinson is a hero for standing up for his rights and becoming the first black player to be accepted into the major leagues in 1947. Even after he became a Dodgers team member, he faced racism and segregation. Fans saw the injustice and rallied behind him.  

The Greatest: Muhammad Ali by Walter Dean Myers

Muhammad Ali is one of the most respected sports figures of all time. Even when he was well past his prime, he continued to give it his all. This book gives all the details about the matches and opponents he faced during his career, his conversion to Islam, opposition to the Vietnam War, and the long-term health risks of boxing. 

The Closer (Young Readers’ Edition) by Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera is the son of a Panamanian fisherman who had no formal training in baseball when he was given the opportunity to pitch for the New York Yankees. He came to America knowing no English or ever having heard the name of baseball’s greatest athletes. He excelled and ended up with a 23-year career with the Yankees. 

Through My Eyes (Young Readers’ Edition) by Tim Tebow

This is Tebow’s memoir of his early years, growing up in a religious family, and his college years playing football for the University of Florida. He covers all the pivotal games he played over his four years at Florida with coach Urban Meyer. 

The Keeper (Young Readers’ Edition) by Tim Howard

Tim Howard is one of the best soccer players in the world. The truly amazing part of his story is that he has Tourette’s Syndrome. The book talks about his upbringing, his close relationship with his mom and brother, his own children and, of course, pages and pages of the soccer games that defined in his career. 

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