If you want awesome kids’ books about sports, you’ve come to the right place! Happily Ever Elephants has got your covered with the perfect picture books for your little sports fanatics.
Pickle is sports obsessed. And when I say obsessed, I mean that he turns any object, article of clothing, or piece of paper into a ball and will spend his free time kicking it, throwing it or tossing it. He has perfected the art of being a quarterback, running back and wide receiver all at the same time, catching his own “passes” and running to a goal of his choosing for a touchdown (and yes, it’s as comical to watch as it sounds!) He has also perfected his dribbling, has one heck of a lay up, and is known around school as little Lebron. And, um, yeah. He’s only in kindergarten. And his Mom (hi!) is the most uncoordinated klutz you’ll ever meet.
Not gonna lie - Pickle loves to read, but often times he ONLY wants to read about sports. So, in honor of Super Bowl Sunday, here are some of our favorite sports books — both picture books and early readers, fiction and nonfiction. It’s an eclectic collection for sure, but in our house, each of these is a gem. And guess what? These books have taught ME a ton about Pickle’s favorite games too, and now I love being able to talk with him about all things basketball and football. We hope you enjoy these books as much as we do!
Don’t Throw it to Mo (the Mo Jackson series), by David Adler and illustrated by Sam Ricks: These are hands down Pickle’s favorites. The Mo stories are part of the Penguin Young Readers for Progressing Readers series, and, though I used to read them to Pickle, he can now read most of them to me! There are four books so far, with each pertaining to a small boy named Mo as he struggles — and then succeeds - in playing different sports (football, baseball, basketball and soccer). We love how Mo never lets his tiny statute get in the way of his big passion for sport, always finding a way to shine! This is a must have series for little sports lovers!
Football with Dad, by Frank Berrios and illustrated by Brian Biggs: This is a sweet story about a boy and his dad who can’t wait for football Sundays! Each Sunday, they wake up, put on their jerseys, watch the big games on tv, and then go outside to play some of their own. Cute and fun for your littlest readers.
Randy Rileys Really Big Hit, by Chris Van Dusen: We adore all of Van Dusen’s books, but this one just takes the cake! Randy is a boy that is obsessed with two things — science and baseball — but he’s much better at the former than the latter. When he sees through his telescope that a giant fireball is headed straight for his town, he’s got to find a way to hit that ball out of the park - and save his neighborhood from danger. Will he succeed? This one is just so much fun!
The Field, by Baptiste Paul and illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara: A group of children assemble on a field and get ready for a game of soccer. They have their bol (ball), soulye (shoes) and goal (goal), and just like that, they are off! They kick the ball back and forth, passing and running and jumping until the skies burst open and the ground is deluged with rain. But do they stop? No! They just take their shoes off and keep on keeping on. It's only when their Mamas call for them that the game is paused, they quit for the night and go home to their beds where they dream about futbol, friends and the field.
She’s Got This, by Laurie Hernandez: Calling all gymnasts! This is a new picture book by Olympian Laurie Hernandez about a young girl named Zoe who wants to fly like the gymnasts she sees on television. But then she goes to class and falls off the balance beam — and it’s a lot scarier than she anticipated. This is the story of how one child must find her courage and face her anxieties about falling if she wants to learn how to fly. It is perfect for all kids who have to learn to conquer their fears so they can then conquer their dreams!
The Littlest Leaguer, by Syd Hoff: Harold is the smallest player in the baseball league, and no matter how hard he tries, he’s just no good at the game! He can’t catch a ball, he runs too slow, and he spends more time on the field than on the bench. But one day, during a big game, little Harold has the chance to make a big, big play.
Here Comes the Strikeout, by Leonard Kessler: This is an oldie but goodie about one boy who is so good at baseball — except when it comes to actually hitting the ball! He can run, slide and catch, but he just can’t hit. Or can he? With a lot of hard work and perseverance, Bobby may find he has what it takes to get a home run. We love this awesome story to teach growth mindset!
Take Me Out to the Yakyu, by Aaron Meshon: We all know that baseball is a great American sport, but did you know that it is also beloved in Japan? This is the story of one boy who goes to baseball games with his grandfathers on both sides of the world, one in America and one in Japan, and it takes readers through the awesome cultural traditions in each country. The bright pictures and fun text make this book a home run!
This is It, by Daria Peoples-Riley: If you have a dancer at home, or any child who gets anxious about an audition or try out, this book is awesome! A young girl is nervous for her ballet audition, and it is the child’s shadow who comes to her rescue. Taking the girl on an adventure through the city, her shadow helps her find confidence in her self, her body, her movement and her skills. And then? Then she shines.
Informational Books and Anthologies
Sports Illustrated Kids: My First Book of Football and My First Book of Basketball: If you have little sports lovers at home who want to learn everything they can about how to play different games, these books for rookies are the best! With fun facts, great illustrations, and easy to understand explanations, this series so perfectly helps passionate players learn more about their favorite games. Though we love the Football and Basketball books in our house, the series also contains fantastic Soccer, Hockey and Baseball editions!
For the Love of Basketball from A to Z, by Frederick C. Klein and illustrated by Mark W. Anderson: This book is so cool! If you have a basketball obsessed kiddo in your house, she will love this guide. Each letter of the alphabet represents a different basketball hero, including Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. Through witty rhyme and beautiful illustrations, this ode to basketball greats gives fun facts in a unique way.
Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win, by Rachel Ignotofsky: This book is just fabulous! Featuring female athletes from the 1800s to the present day who play all kinds of sports, this anthology is a must have. From Billie Jean King to Simone Biles, Kristi Yamaguchi to Mia Hamm, this collection brings both well known and lesser known athletes — and sports— to light. Its beautiful, informational, and oh-so-fun!
Goodnight Football, by Michael Dahl and illustrated by Christina Forshay: For your young fans of the game, this is an adorable rhyming bedtime book that celebrates all things football. It introduces kids to football vocabulary, diverse players, and even good sportsmanship. This was Pickle’s choice of a bedtime book for months! There are also baseball, soccer and hockey versions!
Slam Dunk!: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Basketball, by The Editors of Sports Illustrated Kids: Oh my goodness. Pickle will sit and pore over these pages for hours. This is not one for young kids to read on their own, but I had to include it because it is so well loved in our home. The photographs, the stats, the players — he can’t get enough! Filled with lists like the biggest players to the smallest, the best teams of all time and the greatest dunkers, any basketball fan will fall in love with the facts and trivia in this awesome book!
Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams, by Lesa Cline-Ransom and illustrated by James E. Ransome: If you know kids who can’t stop, won’t stop when it comes to tennis or any sport, they will absolutely love this beautifully illustrated story of tennis stars and sisters Venus and Serena Williams. The dynamic sisters are two of the greatest athletes of all time, but they didn’t become champions without dedication, talent, and a whole lot of heart. A wonderful story of perseverance and a testament to their tenacity and love for their sport.
Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery, by Sandra Neil Wallace and illustrated by Bryan Collier: My students fell hard for this fascinating true story of Ernie Barnes, a young black man who loved art but took to playing football in order to make a living. After all, the south was segregated when Barnes grew up, and he knew there was no future in painting - there were no black artists in the museums! Nonetheless, despite his career as a professional football player, Barnes never stopped yearning to be an artist. He eventually conquered his dreams, painting for the NFL and influencing a generation of artists and illustrators.
Salt in his Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream, by Deloris Jordan and Roslyn M. Jordan and illustrated by Kadir Nelson: Did you know that when Michael Jordan was just a boy, he almost gave up on his basketball dreams for fear that he wouldn’t be tall enough? Thankfully, his parents told him that what it took to be a real champion was not height, but patience, perseverance, and lots and lots of effort. This is the story of family and faith — and how one boy’s family helped him achieve his dreams.
I am Jackie Robinson (Ordinary People Change the World), by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulous: Jackie Robinson loved sports, and he was a fantastic athlete. But he lived before the Civil Rights Movement, and he was not allowed to play on the best teams because of the color of his skin. Jackie was undeterred though, believing in his heart that the best sports teams were those that transcended race and included people of every color playing together. Due to his bravery, Jackie became the first black player in Major League Baseball, and his courage changed the face of African Americans in sports, paving the way for black athletes to play on all teams.