Booklist (February 1, 2013 (Vol. 109, No. 11))
Grades 2-4. In December 1891, James Naismith, a physical education teacher in Springfield, Massachusetts, was looking for a way to channel the energy, impatience, and eagerness of his male students. Recalling a game he knew as a child, called Duck on a Rock, he invented a lesson using an old soccer ball and two peach baskets to minimize contact injuries and emphasize finesse and accuracy over brute strength. Pretty quickly, Naismith knew he was onto something: though only one basket was scored the entire first game, his students didn’t want to leave gym class. Over Christmas vacation, the kids taught the game to friends, and soon, a group of women teachers from a nearby school dropped by to learn the new sport. By 1936, Naismith’s game had become an Olympic event. Well researched with material artifacts and primary sources, this historical account is boosted significantly by blocky, muscular illustrations in muted tones that effortlessly mix tongue-in-cheek whimsy with serious action. Anybody who plays the game or watches it ought to find this pretty engrossing.