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Sports Fiction

The Jock and the Library Do Have Something in Common!

By Laura Cordukes

Volume 20 Number 1
1992 January

Does getting, kids to read through sport sound like a paradox? It doesn't have to be. Laura Cordukes gives ideas on different ways we can promote promote sports fiction to kids and a selection of the best Canadian sports fiction titles.

One of the primary goals of librarians and teachers is to encourage children to read and to instil in them a life-long love of reading. The ability to match the right book to the right reader is one we are always striving to achieve and improve upon. We are forever searching for stimulating material, different styles, and new approaches to attract kids. This task is even more challenging now, because we are faced with a tremendous variety in children's backgrounds, reading tastes, and books that are available. Our difficulties are increased because there is so much competition for kids' attention. This means that we really have to know our "products" and how to "market" them.

Although several fiction genres are popular with kids, Canadian sports fiction is one area that is unique and marketable. Sports fiction is particularly appealing because it reflects our cultural experience so well. In many instances, the characters or situations described in the book are very real. When Roch Carrier describes his feelings for Rocket Richard and the Montréal Canadiens in The Hockey Sweater we can immediately empathize with him. After all, what Canadian child could not identify with a hockey game or a skating rink?

Librarians and teachers can use this cultural identification to promote such books to the reluctant reader who prefers to be involved in outdoor activities with his or her friends rather than being alone reading. Sports fiction can also be used with sports enthusiasts who have perhaps not realized that reading about a Wimbledon tennis match can be as exciting as watching one on television or even playing the game.

The promotional possibilities of sports fiction are not limited, however, to the reluctant or non-reader. Many titles in the genre are of high literary quality and call fit into any selection policy, and these books can hold their own with titles from many other genres. Indeed, proof of their success can be found in the fact that many keen readers not usually interested in sports or sports fiction have enjoyed the latter when introduced to it by a teacher or librarian. Thus, our enthusiasm can sell these books and expose children and teens to new reading experiences and enrichment.

All sports require discipline, endurance and good sportsmanship and most also emphasize the importance of teamwork and co-operation Sports fiction can express these values and provide children with heroes or role models. The best titles in the genre achieve this without becoming overt bibliotherapy .

A brief examination of Canadian sports fiction reveals several Interesting points: both old and new titles remain popular, and the new ones reflect current sports trends such as skateboarding as well as the nostalgic focus on past sports legends. The most obvious difference between old and new titles is that the latter may have more female protagonists in them. Dominant themes include hockey, skating and riding. Other sports, such as gymnastics, basketball and football are less readily available in a fictional format.

Librarians and teachers can inspire kids to read and introduce them to the enjoyment of books in a variety of ways, from the simple use of effective displays and booktalks to programming. Most of these ideas are possible to implement at little or no cost, with the only limitation being one's imagination. A few ideas for promoting sports fiction are listed below, followed by a selective bibliography of Canadian sports fiction for young readers.

Book Displays

When situated in a prime location, displays attract many people, inviting them to browse through books they might otherwise have missed. Book displays can range from a simple placing of suitable material on a shelf or table to more elaborate, complex arrangements involving books, relevant objects, fabric and bibliographies. Canadian sports fiction can be used alone as a display theme or as part of a display on another theme.

Canadian sports fiction and nonfiction books can be displayed together. For example, books on the history of the Olympic Games and individual sports can be displayed together with relevant fiction, and biographies, including those of Canadian sports figures, can be displayed along with relevant sports fiction. Fiction and nonfiction books including those on sports, survival and seasonal activities can be included in an adventure theme. Books on Canadian inventors could include books on sports-related figures such as Naismith (the inventor of basketball) accompanied by basketball fiction. Include Canadian sports fiction in displays for Canadian Children's Book Week and National Book Week, or focus on one author who has written on sports themes to celebrate his or her birthday.


Booktalking is the most direct method of exposing children to good quality literature. Whether this is done before a whole class of students or on a one-to-one basis as reader's advisory work, booktalking is an effective way of making kids aware of particular books and our enthusiasm for them. Librarians and teachers can use Canadian sports fiction in a variety of booktalking themes, not just for a talk on "Canadian sports novels" or "hockey fiction."

Sports fiction can be incorporated into non-fiction booktalks. A talk on sports teams could lead to a discussion of Scott Young's book on the Toronto Maple Leafs, Scrubs on Skates. Booktalks on biographies, for example of Brian Orser, could lead to Skate Like the Wind by Joan Ford. A booktalk on poetry--Casey at the Bat--could lead to Baseball Crazy by Martyn Godfrey. If you include Horses and How to Draw Them in a booktalk on drawing you could introduce children to Summer Goes Riding by Jan Truss. Record books such as the Guinness Book of Sports Records lead easily to books like Tie-Breaker by Jack Batten.

Sports fiction can of course be used in fiction theme booktalks, such as adventure, school stories, survival, humour and mysteries.


Programming in the library or at school is a fun and effective way to promote books. The original idea may stem from particularly intriguing books, be based on the season, or be inspired by a specific national or international event. The program can involve a variety of activities, media and sources. Holiday books, such as Let's Celebrate by Caroline Parry (Toronto: Kids Can Press, 1987) can be a useful tool in providing initial stimulus for seasonal programs, particularly for children. For example, Parry discusses late winter festivals in Canada. One of these could be discussed in a program, followed by appropriate stories, games, crafts and films. Another vital part of the program would be a booktalk on sports fiction.

There are several ways in which sports fiction could be incorporated into young adult programming. Have a representative from a local bicycle store discuss new bicycles on the market, equipment, repair tips, etc. The librarian or teacher could arrange a display of sports fiction and non-fiction. Other possibilities of sports "experts" you could invite to the library or classroom include a martial arts trainer or a skateboard store owner. Invite a sports star from a local sports team (such as a Canadian Football League player) to discuss his or her training, equipment and life-style, and include a display of sports fiction. Have an expert on sports cards discuss trends, prices, etc., and include a booktalking session on relevent fiction and non-fiction.

A variety of sports films can be used in a program or booktalk as an icebreaker at the beginning, as a bridge between sections of a program, or as a fun conclusion. Some of these suggested films are based on books that are available in libraries: The Sweater (from Roch Carrier's The Hockey Sweater) Montréal: NFB, 1980; Catherine Finds Her Balance ( Kids from Degrassi Street) Toronto: Magic Lantern, 1983; Who's on First. (Abbot and Costello) Universal Picture( Corp, 1945; Lego Figure Skating, Filmwest Association., 1987.


The following selective bibliography arranged by sport contains titles appropriate for children in grade 4 Up to young adult (ages nine to fourteen). The young adult books are marked "YA".


Godfrey, Martyn. Baseball Crazy. James Lorimer, 1987. ISBN 3-55028-021-X (paper)

Brent Hutchins is ecstatic when he is chosen as batboy for the Toronto Blue Jays and accompanies them to Florida for spring training. When some equipment dissapears , Brent and his new friends solve the mystery.

Kusugak, Michael. Baseball Bats for Christmas. Illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka. Annick Press, 1990. ISBN 1-55037-145-2 (cloth), ISBN 1-55037-144-4 ( paper) .

Arvaarluk and his friends are mystified by the delivery of Christmas trees to their village in Repulse Bay; they have never seen trees before. When they discover that the trees make excellent bats, they play baseball all year and impatiently wait for the next Christmas supply plane.

Young, Scott. Seven Parts of a Ball Team and Other Sports Stories. HarperCollins, 1990. ISBN 0-00-617968-1 (paper) .

Short stories about baseball and other sports. (YA)


Mackay, Claire. Mini-Bike Hero. Scholastic, 1974 (rev. 1978). ISBN 0-590-71413-9 (paper).

Steve Macpherson dreams of owning a mini-bike. In order to acquire the Emerald Bobcat, he strikes a bargain with the bike shop owner. But how will Steve tell his father? See also Mini-Bike Racer (Scholastic, 1976, rev. 1979. ISBN 0-590-71003-6 (paper)) and Mini-Bike Rescue 'Scholastic, 1982. ISBN 0-59071100-8 (paper)).


Carrier, Roch. The Boxing Champion. Illustrated by Sheldon Cohen; translated by Sheila Fischman. . Tundra Books, 1991. ISBN 0-88766-249-2 (cloth).

After losing all his boxing matches, Roch sets out on a vigorous training program and prepares to be the champion of Ste. Justine.


Meredith, Don. Dog Runner. Western Producer Prairie Books, 1989. ISBN 0-88833-293-9 (paper). Distributed by Douglas & McIntyre.

Jim Redcrow enters his first dog sled race, in competition with some leaders in the field and an enemy from school. After undergoing a fight for survival, Jim discovers a real love and talent for the sport. (YA)


Korman, Cordon. The Zucchini Warriors. Scholastic, 1988. ISBN 0-590-41335-1 (cloth), ISBN 0-590-41334-1 (paper).

This is another zany adventure at Macdonald Hall with Bruno, Boots, and their friends. Upon their return to school, the students discover that a football program has been set up , and their participation leads to some crazy adventures.


Brian, Sharon. My Mother Made Me. Scholastic, 1983. ISBN 0-590-71309-4(paper).

Jane and her friends devise an elaborate plan to avoid playing hockey, but their grand scheme backfires and the Whole town is up in arms.

Carrier, Roch. The Hockey Sweater. Tundra Books, 1984. Illustrated by Sheldon Cohen; translated by Sheila Fischman. ISBN 0-88776-169-0 (cloth).

The hockey players in Ste. Justine, Quebec, wear the red, White and blue sweater of the Montréal Canadians. Disaster strikes when the Eaton Company mistakenly sends one boy a blue and white Toronto Maple Leafs sweater.

Childerhose, R.J. Hockey Fever in Gogan Falls. Macmillan of Canada, 1973(Out of Print)

When their hockey rink burns down, the players of the Midget A hockey team come up with some unusual fundraising schemes.

Kellerhals-Stewart, Heather. She Shoots! She Scores! Women's Press, 1975. ISBN 0-88961-024-X (paper).

Hilary loves playing hockey. However, people in her Edmonton community don't think hockey is a suitable activity for a girl. Hilary is determined not only to play this sport, but to score big.

Maclntyre, R.P. Yuletide Blues. Thistledown Press, 1991. ISBN 0-920633-84-6 (Paper) .

Lanny finds Christmas this year both difficult and depressing when his parents leave on a vacation and he has troubles with his relatives and hockey teammates. (YA)

Morgan, Allen. The Magic Hockey Skates. Oxford University Press, 1991. ISBN 0-19-540823-3 (cloth).

A young boy is disappointed with his second-hand hockey skates until he learns they are magic.

O'Brien, Andy. Hockey Wingman. Norton, 1967 (out of print).

Danny's dream of playing hockey for the Montréal Canadiens is almost destroyed when he becomes lost and injured in a terrible blizzard.

Wieler, Diana. Bad Boy. Groundwood, 1989. ISBN 0-88899-83-9 (paper).

A sensitively told story of two teenagers who regard their friendship and love of hockey as all important, until A.J. discovers that Tully is homosexual. (YA)

Young, Scott. Scrubs on Skates. McClelland & Stewart, 1952. ISBN 0-7710-908808 (paper).

Pete Gordon is considered to be one of the best hockey players in town. But when he has to leave his championship team to play for his new school, everyone wonders whether he will continue to be a winner.


Collura, Mary-Ellen Lang. Sunny. Irwin, 1988. ISBN 0-7725-1701 -0 (paper) .

When the great race horse Sunny becomes injured, he is nursed back to health by Sophie and her handicapped brother Mike. In the process, Sunny becomes the way for a reconciliation between Mike and his dad.

Truss, Jan. Summer Goes Riding. Groundwood, 1987. ISBN 0-88899-061-8 (paper).

The summer before grade 8 was the summer Charlotte was determined to get a horse. But when the tornado struck the farm, life completely changed.

Wooodson, Marion. Mid's Summer ... The Horse Race. Pacific Edge Publishing, 1989. ISBN 1-895110-01-7 (paper).

Mid Springett finds the summer of 1936 unforgettable as she and her friend Crowfoot win the Dash and Stake relay race in Calgary. (YA)


Choyce, Lesley. Skateboard Shakedown. Formac, 1989. ISBN 0-88780-074-2 (paper).

Gary Sutherland has discovered that the town's abandoned swimming pool makes the perfect skateboard runway. When plans are announced to make the area into a shopping mall, Gary and his friends set out to fight the mayor. (YA)

Godfrey, Martyn. Can You Teach Me to Pick My Nose? Avon, 1990. ISBN 0-38075915-2 (paper).

Jordy becomes involved in a skateboard contest without knowing a thing about the sport. In desperation, he turns to the unpopular Pamela to show him the right moves. (YA)

Duncan, Frances. Kap-Sun Ferris. Macmillan of Canada, 1977. ISBN 0-7715-9606-5 (paper).

Championship skater Kim must decide where she belongs--in Korea with the mother who gave her up for adoption, or with the Canadian family who have adopted her.

Ford,Joan. Skate-Like the Wind. Gage, 1983. ISBN 0-7715-7009-0 (paper).

Lindy Bernard, Ottawa resident, is on her way to Edmonton to compete in her first national skating competition. There she will experience the misery of failure and the excitement of winning.


Siamon, Sharon. Ski for Your Mountain. Gage, 1983. ISBN 0-7715-7007-4 (paper).

After her father's death, April moves in with relatives who own a ski lodge. There she finds herself in the middle of several adventures. See also Fishing for Trouble (James Lorimer, 1987. ISBN 1-55028-044-9 (cloth), ISBN 1-55028-042-2 (paper)).


Choyce, Lesley. Wave Watch. Formac, 1990. ISBN 0-88780-081-5 (paper).

Randy is one of the best surfers in the area, but he faces some competition when a new group of teens arrive with their boards. (YA)


Batten, Jack. Tie-Breaker. Irwin, 1984. ISBN 0-7720-1448-5 (paper).

Sixteen-year-old Brad Fraser is a Toronto tennis star who wins his way to the Wimbledon semi-finals. (YA)

Laura Cordukes is a librarian at Carlingwood branch, Ottawa Public Library, in Ottawa, Ontario.

line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


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