Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball

by John Coy (Author) Joe Morse (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Taking over a rowdy gym class right before winter vacation is not something James Naismith wants to do at all.

The last two teachers of this class quit in frustration. The students--a bunch of energetic young men--are bored with all the regular games and activities. Naismith needs something new, exciting, and fast to keep the class happy--or someone's going to get hurt. Saving this class is going to take a genius. Discover the true story of how Naismith invented basketball in 1891 at a school in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Publishers Weekly

Coy (the 4 for 4 series) tells the story of basketball's founding in 1891 directly and succinctly. Young teacher James Naismith takes over a gym class of unruly young men. When other organized games produce walking wounded, "Naismith felt like giving up but couldn't. The boys in the class reminded him of how he'd been at their age--energetic, impatient, and eager for something exciting." Thirteen rules, a ball, and two peach baskets later, he develops a new game that demands accuracy while tempering aggressiveness. The story's dynamism comes from Morse's (Play Ball, Jackie!) stylized prints, whose posterlike quality is amplified by the limited palette of blue, brown, and maroon. Lanky limbs stretch dramatically across the pages, a visual foil to Coy's spare storytelling style. While it's slightly disconcerting to have the students referred to as "boys" when they appear as mustached young adults, their grimacing, chiseled features in motion are attention- grabbing. This lively glimpse into the beginnings of a hugely popular sport concludes with a short author's note and bibliography. Ages 7-11. Author's agent: Transatlantic Literary Agency. Illustrator's agent: Heflin Reps. (Mar.)

Copyright 2013 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 1-3 In 1891, a teacher named James Naismith invented a game that was destined to become a national sensation. The boys' gym class at his school was particularly rowdy. He needed to find an indoor activity for the energetic lads that was fun, but not too rough. Inspired by a favorite childhood game, he stayed up late one night typing the rules of his new game. With a soccer ball, two peach baskets, and the rules tacked to the bulletin board, Naismith introduced his idea to the unruly class the next day. In that first game, only one basket was scored, but the boys were captivated. During Christmas vacation, they taught their friends how to play basketball and soon its popularity spread across the country. Even women formed a team. By 1936, basketball became a recognized Olympic sport and Naismith was honored at the opening ceremonies. Morse's energetic illustrations add an old-fashioned charm to the narrative. Readers will also want to examine the endpapers, a reproduction of the original rules of the game typed by Naismith. This entertaining and informative story will delight young sports fans.—Linda L. Walkins, Saint Joseph Preparatory High School, Boston, MA

Copyright 2013 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"This book is a delight for athletes of all ages, especially basketball fans. Morse's crisp, angular illustrations capture the essence of the late 1800s with meticulous detail. Coy chronicles the struggles of Naismith as he desperately tries to engage his rambunctious students indoors during the winter months. As a result, he invents basketball, a sport that requires skill and physical activity. Though this story will mostly appeal to boys, the women who played basketball wearing long skirts will intrigue girls. The text is sparse, but it works harmoniously with the illustrations. Facts are well-researched, and presented in a way that is approachable for young readers. An author's note includes additional details about Naismith's life along with a selected bibliography. Naismith's story offers an excellent way to reach reluctant readers when launching a research project or collaborating across disciplines." —Library Media Connection

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Carolrhoda Books (R)
Publication date
January 20, 2013
Black-Eyed Susan Award
Nominee 2014 - 2015
North Carolina Children's Book Award
Nominee 2015 - 2015
Star of the North Picture Book Award
Nominee 2014 - 2015
Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award
Nominee 2015 - 2015
Monarch Award
Nominee 2016 - 2016
Virginia Readers Choice Award
Nominee 2016 - 2016
Louisiana Young Readers' Choice Award
Nominee 2016 - 2016
South Carolina Childrens, Junior and Young Adult Book Award
Nominee 2015 - 2016

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