CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 17 . . . . January 5, 2018
Sylvester, a former radio sportscaster with a talent for doodling and illustrating, has a growing body of children's books to his credit, most of which have a sports theme. Basketballogy follows the form of his 2015 work, Baseballogy. Basketball fanatics may know some of the facts and history presented in the volume, but this reviewer guarantees that there are anecdotes, facts, figures and trivia that will be new to any reader. Did you know that, as recently as the 1920s, basketball courts were surrounded by barriers or cages to limit the size of the court and to protect the fans—hence the term "cagers" for basketball players? The origins of the sport, the evolution of the ball, and changing rules and court markings are all addressed to some extent. The original 13 rules established by the game's creator, James Naismith, in 1891 are reproduced in their entirety. Sylvester's colourful illustrations include pie charts and tables that visual learners and teachers will appreciate. There is even a two-page spread that extends beyond the pages as it attempts to show a size 22 shoe (Shaquille O'Neal's largest NBA shoe size on record), nested for comparison with a size 8 and the men's size 17 worn by Brittney Griner of the WNBA.
The reality of publishing makes it necessary for Canadian-based publishers like Annick Press to cater to the American market and its much larger potential book-buying audience. This is evident from the excerpt above. Nevertheless, even in the example, careful reading reveals that Sylvester has not forgotten Canadian readers. Measurements given in inches are followed by metric values in cm in brackets. Sylvester deserves a few pats on the back for addressing questions of equity, diversity and inclusivity in the world of basketball. He includes ample coverage of women in the sport, including anecdotes and facts from the WNBA. Information about the national origins of both men and women professional players in 2016 is creatively displayed using graduated national flags, much as a cartographer would use graduated circles to represent numeric data. Wheelchair netball and basketball are both introduced, with scientific/design aspects of the athletic wheelchair and angles of shooting noted.
Because Basketballogy does not explain all of the current rules of the game and the intricacies of various positions, the book may be valued the most by those who already understand current rules and personalities. Facts about the business aspects of basketball, statistics and mathematical content, such as angles of the arc of the ball, are a few aspects of the book that increase its educational value and will appeal to students who may not be sports fans. What kid can resist comparisons such as costs of a night out at the court in 1960 versus today, or representations of the strange hairstyles of some of the more colourful characters who have taken to the court?
Val Ken Lem is a librarian at Ryerson University in Toronto, ON..