BEST MIDDLE-GRADE BOOKS ABOUT SPORTS

Middle-grade books about sports are thankfully becoming more and more popular. They’re also becoming more diverse and enjoyable. I’ve tried to research middle-grade books about sports in the past and many books I found had uninspiring covers and were about boys and baseball. In this list, though, I’ve included books with girls as protagonists. There are also Black, Jewish, and Asian leading characters.

Books about sports were tricky at first for me. You see, I never enjoyed sports as a child. But the wonderful thing about books is that they open your eyes to a world you haven’t necessarily been a part of. The picks I’ve read on this list of middle-grade books about sports were all massively entertaining for me, despite being heavy on the sport. I’ve also taken care to choose books centered around the specific sport and not just with side characters playing the sport.

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19 Middle-Grade Books About Sports

best middle-grade books about sports 1


Ghost Series

best middle grade sports book ghost by jason reynoldsPart of the Track series; protagonists are runners.

Running. That’s all Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons—it all started with running away from his father, who, when Ghost was a very little boy, chased him and his mother through their apartment, then down the street, with a loaded gun, aiming to kill. Since then, Ghost has been the one causing problems—and running away from them—until he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic Medalist who sees something in Ghost: crazy natural talent. If Ghost can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city.


Up for Air

up for air laurie morrison book cover

Main character is a swimmer.

I LOVED this book! Read my review here.

Thirteen-year-old Annabelle struggles in school, no matter how hard she tries. But as soon as she dives into the pool, she’s unstoppable. She’s the fastest girl on the middle school swim team, and when she’s asked to join the high school team over the summer, everything changes. Suddenly, she’s got new friends, and a high school boy starts treating her like she’s somebody special—and Annabelle thinks she’ll finally stand out in a good way. She’ll do anything to fit in and help the team make it to the Labor Day Invitational, even if it means blowing off her old friends. But after a prank goes wrong, Annabelle is abandoned by the older boy and can’t swim. Who is she without the one thing she’s good at? Heartwarming and relatable, Up for Air is a story about where we find our self-worth.


Keeping Score

keeping score linda sue park best middle-grade books about sports

Protagonist loves baseball.

Both Maggie Fortini and her brother, Joey-Mick, were named for baseball great Joe DiMaggio. Unlike Joey-Mick, Maggie doesn’t play baseball—but at almost ten years old, she is a dyed-in-the-wool fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Maggie can recite all the players’ statistics and understands the subtleties of the game. Unfortunately, Jim Maine is a Giants fan, but it’s Jim who teaches Maggie the fine art of scoring a baseball game. Not only can she revisit every play of every inning, but by keeping score she feels she’s more than just a fan: she’s helping her team.

Jim is drafted into the army and sent to Korea, and although Maggie writes to him often, his silence is just one of a string of disappointments—being a Brooklyn Dodgers fan in the early 1950s meant season after season of near misses and year after year of dashed hopes. But Maggie goes on trying to help the Dodgers, and when she finds out that Jim needs help, too, she’s determined to provide it. Against a background of major league baseball and the Korean War on the home front, Maggie looks for, and finds, a way to make a difference.


Izzy Barr: Running Star

middle grade books about sports izzy barrMC is a runner.

Izzy Barr is the star athlete of the third grade: she hits homeruns on her softball team and is one of the fastest runners in her class. But at home, her half-brother, Dustin, seems to be her father’s favorite athlete—why else would her dad go to all of his games and miss so many of hers? Izzy pretends that she doesn’t care, but as she, her friends Annika Riz and Kelsey Green, and the rest of their class are gearing up for class field day, she can’t help but hope her dad will be there to cheer her on in the big race against her rival, Skipper Tipton. Dad doesn’t make it to field day, but when he realizes how important it is to Izzy, he and all of her friends and family are there to watch her participate in the citywide 10K run.


Takedown

best middle-grade books about sports takedown laura shovanProtagonists are wrestlers.

This is one of my favorite books EVER!

Mikayla is a wrestler; when you grow up in a house full of brothers who wrestle, it’s inevitable. It’s also a way to stay connected to her oldest brother, Evan, who moved in with their dad. Some people object to having a girl on the team. But that’s not stopping Mikayla. She’s determined to work harder than ever, and win.

Lev is determined to make it to the state championships this year. He’s used to training with his two buddies as the Fearsome Threesome; they know how to work together. At the beginning of sixth grade, he’s paired with a new partner–a girl. This better not get in the way of his goal.

Mikayla and Lev work hard together and become friends. But when they face each other, only one of them can win.


On Point

on point hena khan

 

Main character plays basketball.

Now that Zayd has made the Gold Team, he’s hustling hard and loving every minute of the season.

But when team starts to struggle, Zayd can’t help wondering if it has something to do with him. Even worse, his best friend Adam suddenly starts acting like he doesn’t care about basketball anymore, even though they are finally teammates. He stops playing basketball with Zayd at recess and starts hanging out with other kids. Then, Adam up and quits the Gold Team to play football instead.

While his uncle’s wedding preparations turn life into a circus at home, Zayd is left on his own to figure things out. He has to decide how to still be friends with Adam and step up to fill the empty shoes he left on the court. Does Zayd have what it takes to be on point and lead his team back to victory?


Rebound

rebound kwame alexander

I enjoyed the sequel — The Crossover — so I’m hoping to read this one soon (or listen to it)!

Before Josh and Jordan Bell were streaking up and down the court, their father was learning his own moves. In this prequel to Newbery Medal winner The Crossover, Chuck Bell takes center stage, as readers get a glimpse of his childhood and how he became the jazz music worshiping, basketball star his sons look up to.

A novel in verse with all the impact and rhythm readers have come to expect from Kwame Alexander, Rebound will go back in time to visit the childhood of Chuck “Da Man” Bell during one pivotal summer when young Charlie is sent to stay with his grandparents where he discovers basketball and learns more about his family’s past.


Checked

best middle-grade books about sports checked cynthia kadahota

MC loves hockey.

Hockey is Conor’s life. His whole life. He’ll say it himself, he’s a hockey beast. It’s his dad’s whole life too—and Conor is sure that’s why his stepmom, Jenny, left. There are very few things Conor and his dad love more than the game, and one of those things is their Doberman, Sinbad. When Sinbad is diagnosed with cancer, Conor chooses to put his hockey lessons and practices on hold so they can pay for Sinbad’s chemotherapy.

But without hockey to distract him, Conor begins to notice more. Like his dad’s crying bouts, and his friend’s difficult family life. And then Conor notices one more thing: Without hockey, the one thing that makes him feel special, is he really special at all?


The Distance to Home

best middle-grade books about sports

MC plays baseball.

Last summer, Quinnen was the star pitcher of her baseball team, the Panthers. They were headed for the championship, and her loudest supporter at every game was her best friend and older sister, Haley.

This summer, everything is different. Haley’s death, at the end of last summer, has left Quinnen and her parents reeling. Without Haley in the stands, Quinnen doesn’t want to play baseball. It seems like nothing can fill the Haley-sized hole in her world. The one glimmer of happiness comes from the Bandits, the local minor-league baseball team. For the first time, Quinnen and her family are hosting one of the players for the season. Without Haley, Quinnen’s not sure it will be any fun, but soon she befriends a few players. With their help, can she make peace with the past and return to the pitcher’s mound?

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Gabby Garcia’s Ultimate Playbook

gabby garcia's ultimate playbook

MC plays baseball.

If life were a baseball game, all-star pitcher Gabby Garcia would be having her Best. Season. EVER! Until she’s suddenly sent to another school and her winning streak is about to disappear—both on and off the field.

But Gabby never gives up! She has a PLAN to keep her champion status intact, and every step of is written out—PLAY by PLAY. How could it not work?


Sidetracked

best middle-grade books about sports sidetracked

MC runs track.

If middle school were a race, Joseph Friedman wouldn’t even be in last place—he’d be on the sidelines. With an overactive mind and phobias of everything from hard-boiled eggs to gargoyles, he struggles to understand his classes, let alone his fellow classmates. So he spends most of his time avoiding school bully Charlie Kastner and hiding out in the Resource Room, a safe place for misfit kids like him.

But then, on the first day of seventh grade, two important things happen. First, his Resource Room teacher encourages (i.e., practically forces) him to join the school track team, and second, he meets Heather, a crazy-fast runner who isn’t going to be pushed around by Charlie Kastner or anybody else.
With a new friend and a new team, Joseph finds himself off the sidelines and in the race (quite literally) for the first time. Is he a good runner? Well, no, he’s terrible. But the funny thing about running is, once you’re in the race, anything can happen.


Out of Left Field

best middle-grade books about sports out of left field

MC plays baseball.

Every boy in the neighborhood knows Katy Gordon is their best pitcher, even though she’s a girl. But when she tries out for Little League, it’s a whole different story. Girls are not eligible, period. It is a boy’s game and always has been. It’s not fair, and Katy’s going to fight back. Inspired by what she’s learning about civil rights in school, she sets out to prove that she’s not the only girl who plays baseball. With the help of friendly librarians and some tenacious research skills, Katy discovers the forgotten history of female ball players. Why does no one know about them? Where are they now? And how can one ten-year-old change people’s minds about what girls can do?

Set in 1957—the world of Sputnik and Leave It to Beaver, saddle shoes and “Heartbreak Hotel”—Out of Left Field is both a detailed picture of a fascinating historic period and a timelessly inspiring story about standing up for equality at any age.


The Girl Who Threw Butterflies

best middle-grade books about sports

MC plays baseball.

For an eighth grader, Molly Williams has more than her fair share of problems. Her father has just died in a car accident, and her mother has become a withdrawn, quiet version of herself.

Molly doesn’t want to be seen as “Miss Difficulty Overcome”; she wants to make herself known to the kids at school for something other than her father’s death. So she decides to join the baseball team. The boys’ baseball team. Her father taught her how to throw a knuckleball, and Molly hopes it’s enough to impress her coaches as well as her new teammates.

Over the course of one baseball season, Molly must figure out how to redefine her relationships to things she loves, loved, and might love: her mother; her brilliant best friend, Celia; her father; her enigmatic and artistic teammate, Lonnie; and of course, baseball.


Roller Girl

best middle-grade books about sports roller girl

MC is a roller skater. This one’s a graphic novel.

For most of her twelve years, Astrid has done everything with her best friend Nicole. But after Astrid falls in love with roller derby and signs up for derby camp, Nicole decides to go to dance camp instead. And so begins the most difficult summer of Astrid’s life as she struggles to keep up with the older girls at camp, hang on to the friend she feels slipping away, and cautiously embark on a new friendship. As the end of summer nears and her first roller derby bout (and junior high!) draws closer, Astrid realizes that maybe she is strong enough to handle the bout, a lost friendship, and middle school… in short, strong enough to be a roller girl.


Sugar and Ice

sugar and ice kate messner

MC is an ice-skater.

For Claire Boucher, life is all about skating on the frozen cow pond and in the annual Maple Show right before the big pancake breakfast on her family’s farm. But all that changes when Russian skating coach Andrei Grosheva offers Claire a scholarship to train with the elite in Lake Placid. Tossed into a world of mean girls on ice, where competition is everything, Claire realizes that her sweet dream come true has sharper edges than she could have imagined. Can she find the strength to stand up to the people who want to see her fail and the courage to decide which dream she wants to follow?


Nikki on the Line

middle-grade books about sports

MC plays basketball.

Thirteen-year-old Nikki Doyle’s dreams of becoming a basketball great feel within reach when she’s selected to play on an elite-level club team. But in a league with taller, stronger, and faster girls, Nikki suddenly isn’t the best point guard. In fact, she’s no longer a point guard at all, which leaves her struggling to figure out who she is and how she fits in.

The stress piles on as Nikki’s best friend spends more and more time with another girl on the team, and when her science teacher assigns a family tree project that will be impossible to complete unless Nikki reveals her most embarrassing secret. As if that’s not enough to deal with, to cover the costs of her new team, Nikki has agreed to take care of her annoying younger brother after school to save money on childcare.

As the stakes rise on the basketball court, at school, and at home, Nikki’s confidence plummets. Can she learn to compete at this new, higher level? And how hard is she willing to work to find out?


Breaking the Ice

breaking the ice gail nall

MC is a figure-skater.

Figure skating is Kaitlin’s passion, but she lands on thin ice after a meltdown in this funny, touching story. Because when you fall down, you have to pick yourself up—even if it’s in front of judges and a crowd.

Kaitlin has always dreamed of being a champion figure skater, and she’s given up a lot to pursue her passion. But after she has a totally uncharacteristic tantrum at a major competition, she’s dropped by both her coach and her prestigious skating club.

When no other club will have her, she’s forced to join the ridiculed and run-down Fallton Club, jokingly referred to as the “Fall Down Club.” At first Kaitlin thinks this is a complete disaster, but after meeting some of the other skaters—including a boy who happens to have the most perfect hair she’s ever seen—she realizes it might not actually be so bad.

Yet learning a whole new program right before regionals is a huge challenge, and when she realizes that all the other area skaters target Fallton for pranks, she begins to wonder if joining the Fall Down Club has any upside.


Step up to the Plate, Maria Singh

 

best middle-grade books about sportsMC plays softball.

Nine-year-old Maria Singh longs to play softball in the first-ever girls’ team forming in Yuba City, California. It’s the spring of 1945, and World War II is dragging on. Miss Newman, Maria’s teacher, is inspired by Babe Ruth and the All-American Girls’ League to start a girls’ softball team at their school. Meanwhile, Maria’s parents–Papi from India and Mama from Mexico–can no longer protect their children from prejudice and from the discriminatory laws of the land. When the family is on the brink of losing their farm, Maria must decide if she has what it takes to step up and find her voice in an unfair world. In this fascinating middle grade novel, award-winning author Uma Krishnaswami sheds light on a little-known chapter of American history set in a community whose families made multicultural choices before the word had been invented.


The Test: Junior Lifeguards

the test middle-grade books about sports

Join the brave and strong girls of the Junior Lifeguards on their summery adventures in Cape Cod, where ice cream, mini-golf, and sand-between-your-toes combine with crushes and life skills for fun beachfront escapades!

Dive right into tryouts with Jenna, Piper, Selena, and Ziggy– four diverse girls entering their first season as lifeguards-in-training on Cape Cod’s iconic Atlantic coast. Romance and rivalries abound in this beachside town, where swanky seasonal homeowners and hard-working locals clash and unite in age-old patterns. In this first book of the JUNIOR LIFEGUARDS series, the girls are vying for spots on the summer squad, with ocean legend Bud Slater hand-picking a team of winners. Will they or won’t they make the cut?

19 middle-grade books about sports featuring work by @laurielmorrison, @henakhanbooks, @laurashovan, @buffalojenn, @ivamarie, @eklages, and more! Click To Tweet

These are the middle-grade books about sports that I’ve read and loved or are currently on my radar! I’m always looking for more recommendations, though. What are your favorite middle-grade books about sports, and which of these are you interested in? I’d love to know.

 

 

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3 thoughts on “BEST MIDDLE-GRADE BOOKS ABOUT SPORTS

    1. Thanks so much for reading, Carol! And I saw that you shared the post on Twitter too. Thank you! 🥰

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