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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Best Middle Grade Books About Sports
Table of Contents
Here are 53 of the best middle grade books about sports:
Best Middle Grade Books About Running Track
Published: August 30, 2016
Part 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.
Izzy Barr: Running Star
Published: April 28, 2015
MC 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.
The Million Dollar Race
Published: January 19, 2021
Grant Falloon isn’t just good at track; he’s close to breaking the world record 100-meter time for his age group. So when the mega-rich Babblemoney sneaker company announces an international competition to find the fastest kid in the world, he’s desperate to sign up.
But not so fast. Nothing’s ever that easy with the eccentric Falloon family. Turns out, his non-conformist parents never got him a legal birth certificate. He can’t race for the United States, so now if he wants to compete, he may just have to invent his own country.
And even if that crazy plan works, winning gold will mean knocking his best friend—and biggest competitor—Jay, out of the competition. As unexpected hurdles arise, Grant will have to ask not only if winning is possible, but what he’s willing to sacrifice for it.
Published: August 22, 2017
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.
Middle Grade Books About Boxing
Published: January 26, 2021
MJ knows what it means to hurt. Bruises from gymnastics heal, but big hurts—like her dad not being around anymore—don’t go away. Now her mom needs to work two jobs, and MJ doesn’t have friends at school to lean on.
There is only one thing MJ loves: the world of professional wrestling. She especially idolizes the luchadores and the stories they tell in the ring. When MJ learns that her neighbor, Mr. Arellano, runs a wrestling school, she has a new mission in life: join the school, train hard, and become a wrestler.
But trouble lies ahead. After wrestling in a showcase event, MJ attracts the attention of Mr. Arellano’s enemy at the State Athletic Commission. There are threats to shut the school down, putting MJ’s new home—and the community that welcomed her—at risk. What can MJ do to save her new family?
Best Middle-Grade Book About Sports (Wrestling)
Published: June 19, 2018
Protagonists 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.
Middle Grade Books About Fencing
True to Your Selfie
Published: February 4, 2020
Twelve-year-old Ella has everything she needs to take seventh grade by storm, from the perfect outfit to the perfect new best friend. She’s still not 100% sure why cool, confident Morgan has chosen Ella to be her newest sidekick, but Ella is flattered by the attention, even if it means giving up some of the things she’s always loved, like fantasy novels . . . and her former best friend, Sophie. Ella feels a little guilty about ditching Sophie, but middle school is no laughing matter, and Ella knows that it’ll be safer in popular Morgan’s shadow than by Sophie’s side.But life as Morgan’s best friend is trickier than Ella imagined. Everything has to be perfect, from their “on brand” selfies to the videos they record of them singing. And the more demanding Morgan becomes, the more Ella starts to wonder if she made the right choice. But Sophie already has a new best friend, leaving Ella feeling more alone and out of place than ever.So when Ella discovers a new activity that she’s really good at — a hopelessly dorky sport that Morgan has forbidden her from pursuing, Ella has to ask herself what matters more: popularity . . . or staying true to herself? But does she even know who she really is without loyal Sophie by her side?
Black Brother, Black Brother
Published: March 30, 2021
Framed. Bullied. Disliked. But I know I can still be the best.
Sometimes, 12-year-old Donte wishes he were invisible. As one of the few black boys at Middlefield Prep, most of the students don’t look like him. They don’t like him either. Dubbing him “Black Brother,” Donte’s teachers and classmates make it clear they wish he were more like his lighter-skinned brother, Trey.
When he’s bullied and framed by the captain of the fencing team, “King” Alan, he’s suspended from school and arrested for something he didn’t do.
Terrified, searching for a place where he belongs, Donte joins a local youth center and meets former Olympic fencer Arden Jones. With Arden’s help, he begins training as a competitive fencer, setting his sights on taking down the fencing team captain, no matter what.
As Donte hones his fencing skills and grows closer to achieving his goal, he learns the fight for justice is far from over. Now Donte must confront his bullies, racism, and the corrupt systems of power that led to his arrest.
Powerful and emotionally gripping, Black Brother, Black Brother is a careful examination of the school-to-prison pipeline and follows one boy’s fight against racism and his empowering path to finding his voice.
Best Middle-Grade Books About Sports (Double Dutch)
Love Double Dutch
Published: April 3, 2018
Brooklyn middle-schooler MaKayla can only think about one thing–taking her double Dutch team all the way to the National Jump-off at Madison Square Garden. That is, until her mother breaks the news. Kayla has to spend the summer at her aunt’s house in North Carolina while her parents work out their problems . . . or decide to call it quits.
Kayla does not feel at home in the South, and she certainly doesn’t get along with her snooty cousin Sally. It looks like her Jump-off dreams are over.
Hold the phone! Turns out, double Dutch is huge in the South. She and Sally just need to find two more kids for a team. And a routine. And the confidence to stand up to the double Dutch divas who used to be Sally’s BFFs. Time to show those Southern belles some Brooklyn attitude!
Jayla Jumps In
Published: September 1, 2020
When eleven-year-old Jayla finds out that her mother used to be a Double Dutch champion, she’s stunned. Her mom, who’s on doctor’s orders to lower her blood pressure, could move like that?!? Jayla decides to follow in her mom’s footsteps, thinking that maybe double Dutch can make her stand out in her big, quirky family. As she puts together a team at school and prepares to compete, Jayla finds that Double Dutch is about a lot more than jumping rope–and it just might change her life in ways she never imagined. Full of hilarious family dynamics and plenty of jump rope action, Jayla Jumps In follows one girl’s quest to get her mom healthy and find her place in her community.
Best Middle-Grade Books About Sports (Cheerleading)
Published: April 6, 2021
Magic Olive Poindexter has big shoes to fill. Her mother was a professional cheerleader, her father is a retired NBA legend, her big sister is the new face of the oh-so-glamorous Laker Girls, and her grandmother was the first black cheerleader ever on Valentine Middle School’s HoneyBee cheer squad. Magic wants nothing more than to follow in their footsteps. But first, she has to survive Planet Pom Poms, the summer cheer camp where she’ll audition for a spot on the HoneyBee squad. But with zero athletic ability and a group of mean girls who have her number, Tragic Magic is a long way from becoming the toe-touching cheerleader heroine she dreams of being.
Things start to look up when her best friend Cappie joins her at camp—until Cappie gets bitten by the popularity bug, that is. To make matters worse, Magic’s crushing hard on football star Dallas Chase. Luckily, Magic’s not alone: with the help of a new crew of fabulous fellow misfits and her Grammy Mae’s vintage pom poms by her side, Tragic Magic might just survive—and even thrive—at cheer camp.
Best Middle Grade Books About Water Polo
Marshmallow and Jordan
Jordan’s days as star player for her school’s basketball team ended when an accident left her paralyzed from the waist down. Now, she’s still the team captain, but her competition days seem to be behind her…until an encounter with a mysterious elephant, who she names Marshmallow, helps Jordan discover a brand new sport.
Will water polo be the way for Jordan to continue her athletic dreams–or will it just come between Jordan and her best friends on the basketball team? And with the big tournament right around the corner, what secret is Marshmallow hiding?
Best Middle-Grade Books About Sports (Swimming)
Up for Air
Published: May 7, 2019
Main character is a swimmer.
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.
Published: May 11, 2021
When her family moves from Pakistan to Peachtree City, all Nurah wants is to blend in, yet she stands out for all the wrong reasons. Nurah’s accent, floral-print kurtas, and tea-colored skin make her feel excluded, until she meets Stahr at swimming tryouts.
And in the water Nurah doesn’t want to blend in. She wants to win medals like her star athlete brother, Owais—who is going through struggles of his own in the U.S. Yet when sibling rivalry gets in the way, she makes a split-second decision of betrayal that changes their fates.
Ultimately Nurah slowly gains confidence in the form of strong swimming arms, and also gains the courage to stand up to bullies, fight for what she believes in, and find her place.
The Test: Junior Lifeguards
Published: July 26, 2016
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?
Best Middle-Grade Books About Sports (Baseball)
The Distance to Home
Published: June 28, 2016
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?
Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen
Published: February 25, 2020
Vivy Cohen is determined. She’s had enough of playing catch in the park. She’s ready to pitch for a real baseball team.
But Vivy’s mom is worried about Vivy being the only girl on the team, and the only autistic kid. She wants Vivy to forget about pitching, but Vivy won’t give up. When her social skills teacher makes her write a letter to someone, Vivy knows exactly who to choose: her hero, Major League pitcher VJ Capello. Then two amazing things happen: A coach sees Vivy’s amazing knuckleball and invites her to join his team. And VJ starts writing back!
Now Vivy is a full-fledged pitcher, with a catcher as a new best friend and a steady stream of advice from VJ. But when a big accident puts her back on the bench, Vivy has to fight to stay on the team.
Gabby Garcia’s Ultimate Playbook* (Series)
Published: May 9, 2017
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?
Published: August 31, 2021
Shenice Lockwood, captain of the Fulton Firebirds, is hyper-focused when she steps up to the plate. Nothing can stop her from leading her team to the U12 fast-pitch softball regional championship. But life has thrown some curveballs her way.
Strike one: As the sole team of all-brown faces, Shenice and the Firebirds have to work twice as hard to prove that Black girls belong at bat.
Strike two: Shenice’s focus gets shaken when her great-uncle Jack reveals that a career-ending—and family-name-ruining—crime may have been a setup.
Strike three: Broken focus means mistakes on the field. And Shenice’s teammates are beginning to wonder if she’s captain-qualified.
It’s up to Shenice to discover the truth about her family’s past—and fast—before secrets take the Firebirds out of the game forever.
Published: March 17, 2008
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.
The Girl Who Threw Butterflies
Published: March 17, 2008
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.
Lupe Wong Won’t Dance
Published: September 8, 2020
Lupe Wong is going to be the first female pitcher in the Major Leagues.
She’s also championed causes her whole young life. Some worthy…like expanding the options for race on school tests beyond just a few bubbles. And some not so much…like complaining to the BBC about the length between Doctor Who seasons.
Lupe needs an A in all her classes in order to meet her favorite pitcher, Fu Li Hernandez, who’s Chinacan/Mexinese just like her. So when the horror that is square dancing rears its head in gym? Obviously she’s not gonna let that slide.
Out of Left Field
Published: May 1, 2018
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.
When a boy struggles after moving to a Japanese internment camp during WWII, baseball shows him another way to approach life.Sandy Saito is a happy boy who reads comic books and is obsessed with baseball — especially the Asahi team, the pride of his Japanese Canadian community. But when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, his life, like that of every other North American of Japanese descent, changes forever. His family is forced to move to a remote internment camp, and his father must spend months away from them. Sandy, his mother and his brother cope as best they can with the difficulties at the camp. Over time, Sandy comes to realize that life is a lot like baseball. It’s about dealing with whatever is thrown at you, however you can. And it’s about finding your way home.
Best Middle-Grade Books About Sports (Basketball)
Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time
Published: October 1, 2005
Stanford Wong is in big trouble–or as he would spell it, “trubble”–in this laugh-out-loud companion to the award-winning MILLICENT MIN, GIRL GENIUS and this season’s SO TOTALLY EMILY EBERS.
Stanford Wong is having a bad summer. If he flunks his summer-school English class, he won’t pass sixth grade. If that happens, he won’t start on the A-team. If that happens, his friends will abandon him and Emily Ebers won’t like him anymore. And if THAT happens, his life will be over. Soon his parents are fighting, his grandmother Yin-Yin hates her new nursing home, he’s being “tutored” by the world’s biggest nerdball Millicent Min–and he’s not sure his ballpoint “Emily” tattoo is ever going to wash off.
Published: October 19, 2021
Lilico’s life in Japan is going well. She has great friends and is the captain of the school’s basketball team. She’s happy!
Then comes her parents’ news: they’re moving to America! Before she knows it, Lilico finds herself in Brooklyn, New York, forced to start all over. And that won’t be easy with her closest friends thousands of miles away or a school bully who immediately dislikes her.
Luckily, anime-loving Nala and Henry eventually befriend Lilico and with help from them―along with her guardian spirit who looks a lot like her cat, Nico―Lilico just might figure out where she fits in.
From author/illustrator Misako Rocks! comes a story about friendship, new beginnings, and doing what you love, no matter what.
Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream
Published: May 29, 2018
Main character plays basketball.
Zayd Saleem has serious hoop dreams. He’s going to be a basketball star. A legend. There are only a few small things in his way.
For starters, Zayd’s on the scrawny side and gets stomach aches when he’s nervous. He has to convince his coach that he has what it takes to join his best friend Adam on the elite Gold Team. His mom and dad want him to practice his violin way more than his jump shot. Plus, it doesn’t help that his older sister Zara is amazing at every sport she tries.
But Zayd has a lot going for him, too. His grandmother is willing to supply him with all the mango milkshakes he wants. His grandfather has a few tricks up the sleeve of his velour track suit. And his favorite uncle keeps Zayd laughing, even if it’s sometimes so hard he needs to pee. Zayd’s family, combined with his friends, teammates, and his own determination, means he’s got everything he needs to chase his dream. Will he reach it?
The Great Wall of Lucy Wu
A humorous and heartwarming debut about split cultural identities, and all the ways life fails to go according to plan for sixth-grader Lucy Wu.Lucy Wu, aspiring basketball star and interior designer, is on the verge of having the best year of her life. She’s ready to rule the school as a sixth grader, go out for captain of the school basketball team, and take over the bedroom she has always shared with her sister. In an instant, though, her plans are shattered when she finds out that Yi Po, her beloved grandmother’s sister, is coming to visit for several months — and is staying in Lucy’s room. Lucy’s vision of a perfect year begins to crumble, and in its place come an unwelcome roommate, foiled birthday plans, a bully who tries to scare Lucy off the basketball team, and Chinese school with the annoying know-it-all Talent Chang. Lucy’s year is ruined — or is it? A wonderfully funny, warm, and heartfelt tale about the ways life often reveals silver linings in the most unexpected of clouds.
Taking Up Space
Published: May 18, 2021
From beloved author Alyson Gerber comes another realistic contemporary novel perfect for fans of Judy Blume.
Sarah loves basketball more than anything. Crushing it on the court makes her feel like she matters. And it’s the only thing that helps her ignore how much it hurts when her mom forgets to feed her.
But lately Sarah can’t even play basketball right. She’s slower now and missing shots she should be able to make. Her body doesn’t feel like it’s her own anymore. She’s worried that changing herself back to how she used to be is the only way she can take control over what’s happening.
When Sarah’s crush asks her to be partners in a cooking competition, she feels pulled in a million directions. She’ll have to dig deep to stand up for what she needs at home, be honest with her best friends, and accept that she doesn’t need to change to feel good about herself.
Booklist described Gerber’s novels in starred reviews as both “highly empathetic” and “truly inspiring.” Taking Up Space promises to be a realistic and compelling story about struggling with body image and learning that true self-esteem comes from within.
Published: April 2, 2018
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.
Published: August 27, 2019
Deontae “Simp” Wright has big plans for his future. Plans that involve basketball, his best friend, Rollie, and making enough money to get his mom and four younger brothers out of the Cove, their low-income housing project.
Long term, this means the NBA. Short term, it means being a dough boy—getting paid to play lookout and eventually moving up the rungs of the neighborhood drug operation with Rollie as his partner.
Roland “Rollie” Matthews used to love playing basketball. He loved the rhythm of the game, how he came up with his best drumbeats after running up and down the court. But playing with the elite team comes with extra, illegal responsibilities, and Rollie isn’t sure he’s down for that life. The new talented-and-gifted program, where Rollie has a chance to audition for a real-life go-go band, seems like the perfect excuse to stop being a dough boy. But how can he abandon his best friend?
The Kate in Between
Published: May 18, 2021
Kate McAllister is desperate for a change. Something to hit refresh and erase the pain of her mother leaving town without her. So when a group of popular girls folds Kate into their clique, it feels like the answer to all her problems—even if it means ditching Haddie, her childhood bestie.
But when Kate’s new friends decide that Haddie is their next target, Kate becomes a passive participant in a cruel incident that could have killed Haddie…had Kate not stepped in, at the last minute, and saved her. The next day, a cell phone video of the rescue goes viral, and Kate is hailed a hero. But Kate knows the truth—she was part of the problem—and it’s only a matter of time until the full version of the video is released and everyone knows it too.
With so much at stake, Kate must decide who she wants to be: a liar, a follower, or someone greater.
Nikki on the Line
Published: March 5, 2019
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?
Best Middle-Grade Books About Sports (Hockey)
Published: February 6, 2018
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?
[bctt tweet=”Got a sports-loving kid or just on the hunt for middle-grade books about sports? Then, you’ll love this list of 53 sports-centered books for kids!” username=”readingmg”]
Best Middle-Grade Books About Sports (Ice-Skating)
Stick with Me
Published: November 3, 2020
One MC is an ice-skater.
Izzy’s best friend seems to be ditching her for the Queen of Mean, Daphne Toll. Izzy wants to fit in and have some real friends, but all she really has are her drawings. And then her family rents out their house during winter break for some extra cash—and that family’s daughter is sleeping in Izzy’s room and attending the same camp!
Wren is focused on perfecting her ice-skating routine after tanking at sectionals last year. But when her sister qualifies for a life-changing treatment for her epilepsy, Wren is carted off to stay in a rented home near Boston. It doesn’t help that she’s forced to attend the local theater camp, where it seems like the mean girls have it out for her.
Will Izzy and Wren’s shared status as targets of Phoebe and Daphne bring them closer? Or will middle school drama prevent them from ever becoming friends?
Sugar and Ice
Published: December 7, 2010
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?
Published: January 19, 2021
Twelve-year-old Maxine Chen is just trying to nail that perfect landing: on the ice, in middle school, and at home, where her parents worry that competitive skating is too much pressure for a budding tween. Maxine isn’t concerned, however―she’s determined to glide to victory. But then a bully at school starts teasing Maxine for her Chinese heritage, leaving her stunned and speechless. And at the rink, she finds herself up against a stellar new skater named Hollie, whose grace and skill threaten to edge Maxine out of the competition. With everything she knows on uneven ice, will Maxine crash under the pressure? Or can she power her way to a comeback?
Set in Lake Placid, New York, this is a spunky yet stirring middle-grade story that examines racism, female rivalry and friendship, and the enduring and universal necessity of love and support.
Breaking the Ice
Published: January 13, 2015
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.
Best Middle-Grade Book About Sports (Football)
Before the Ever After
Published: September 1, 2020
For as long as ZJ can remember, his dad has been everyone’s hero. As a charming, talented pro football star, he’s as beloved to the neighborhood kids he plays with as he is to his millions of adoring sports fans. But lately life at ZJ’s house is anything but charming. His dad is having trouble remembering things and seems to be angry all the time. ZJ’s mom explains it’s because of all the head injuries his dad sustained during his career. ZJ can understand that–but it doesn’t make the sting any less real when his own father forgets his name. As ZJ contemplates his new reality, he has to figure out how to hold on tight to family traditions and recollections of the glory days, all the while wondering what their past amounts to if his father can’t remember it. And most importantly, can those happy feelings ever be reclaimed when they are all so busy aching for the past?
Brave Like That
Cyrus Olson’s dad is a hero—Northfield’s former football star and now one of their finest firefighters. Everyone expects Cyrus to follow in his dad’s record-breaking footsteps, and he wishes they were right—except he’s never been brave like that. But this year, with the help of a stray dog, a few new friends, a little bit of rhythm, and a lot of nerve, he may just discover that actually…he is.
Lauded as “remarkable” by the New York Times Book Review, Lindsey Stoddard’s heartfelt stories continue to garner critical acclaim, and her latest novel will have fans new and old rooting for Cyrus and Parker’s special bond and the courage it helps them both to find.
Best Middle-Grade Book About Sports (Golf)
One Last Shot
Published: May 5, 2020
For as long as he can remember, Malcolm has never felt like he was good enough. Not for his parents, who have always seemed at odds with each other, with Malcolm caught in between. And especially not for his dad, whose competitive drive and love for sports Malcolm has never shared.
That is, until Malcolm discovers miniature golf, the one sport he actually enjoys. Maybe it’s the way in which every hole is a puzzle to be solved. Or the whimsy of the windmills and waterfalls that decorate the course. Or maybe it’s the slushies at the snack bar. But whatever the reason, something about mini golf just clicks for Malcolm. And best of all, it’s a sport his dad can’t possibly obsess over.
Or so Malcolm thinks.
Soon he is signed up for lessons and entered in tournaments. And yet, even as he becomes a better golfer and finds unexpected friends at the local course, be wonders if he might not always be a disappointment. But as the final match of the year draws closer, the tension between Malcolm’s parents reaches a breaking point, and it’s up to him to put the puzzle of his family back together again.
Best Middle-Grade Books About Sports (Softball)
Life in the Balance
Published: February 16, 2021
Veronica Conway has been looking forward to trying out for the All-Star softball team for years. She’s practically been playing the game since she was a baby. She should have this tryout on lock.
Except right before tryouts, Veronica’s mom announces that she’s entering rehab for alcoholism, and her dad tells her that they may not be able to afford the fees needed to be on the team.
Veronica decides to enter the town talent show in an effort to make her own money, but along the way discovers a new hobby that leads her to doubt her feelings for the game she thought she loved so much.
Is her mom the only one learning balance, or can Veronica find a way to discover what she really wants to do with her life?
Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge
Published: March 7, 2017
Being responsible is NOT easy.
Fourth grader Vilonia hasn’t lost her rain coat in the three weeks she’s had it and she’s brushed her teeth every night and she’s volunteered to be the Friday Library Helper. But all that hard work is worth it if it means she can get a dog. Besides, this dog isn’t just because Vilonia has wanted one for pretty much ever. It’s also to help Mama, who’s been lost in one, big sadness fog for forty-three days—ever since Nana died. But Vilonia read that pets can help with sadness. Now all she has to do is keep the library goldfish alive over spring break, stop bringing stray animals home, and help Mama not get fired from her job. And she’s got to do all of it before the Catfish Festival. Easy as pie, right?
Tremendous voice, humor, and heart make this debut novel utterly lovable.
Step up to the Plate, Maria Singh
Published: May 2, 2017
MC 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.
Best Middle-Grade Books About Sports (Derby Rolling)
Roller Girl (Graphic Novel)
Published: March 10, 2015
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.
Best Middle-Grade Books About Sports (Soccer)
Published: March 28, 2017
Rachel Brooks is excited for the new school year. She’s finally earned a place as a forward on her soccer team. Her best friends make everything fun. And she really likes Tate, and she’s pretty sure he likes her back. After one last appointment with her scoliosis doctor, this will be her best year yet.
Then the doctor delivers some terrible news: The sideways curve in Rachel’s spine has gotten worse, and she needs to wear a back brace twenty-three hours a day. The brace wraps her in hard plastic from shoulder blades to hips. It changes how her clothes fit, how she kicks a ball, and how everyone sees her — even her friends and Tate. But as Rachel confronts all the challenges the brace presents, the biggest change of all may lie in how she sees herself.
Bea is for Blended
Published: May 4, 2021
Bea and her mom have always been a two-person team. But now her mom is marrying Wendell, and their team is growing by three boys, two dogs, and a cat.
Finding her place in her new blended family may be tough, but when Bea finds out her school might not get the all-girls soccer team they’d been promised, she learns that the bigger the team, the stronger the fight—and that for the girls to get what they deserve, they’re going to need a squad behind them.
How to Win a Slime War
Published: September 14, 2021
Two kids face off in an epic battle to see who can sell the most slime, while navigating sticky situations with friends and family.
Alex Manalo and his dad have just moved back to Sacramento to help out with their extended family’s struggling Filipino market. While Alex likes helping in the store, his true passion is making slime! He comes up with his own recipes and plays with ingredients, colors, and different bumpy or sparkly bits, which make his slime truly special. A new friend encourages Alex to sell his creations at school, which leads to a sell-off battle with a girl who previously had a slime-opoly. Winner gets bragging rights and the right to be the only slime game in town.
But Alex’s dad thinks Alex should be focused more on “traditional” boy pastimes and less on slime. As the new soccer coach, Dad gets Alex to join the team. Even though he hates sports, Alex gives in.
Alex is battling on multiple fronts–with his new friends at school, and with his dad at home. It will be a sticky race to the finish to see who oozes out on top.
Ten Thousand Tries
Published: July 13, 2021
Twelve-year-old Golden Maroni is determined to channel his hero, soccer superstar Lionel Messi, and become captain of his soccer team and master of his eighth grade universe…especially since his home universe is spiraling out of orbit. Off the field, Golden’s dad, once a pro soccer player himself, is now battling ALS, a disease that attacks his muscles, leaving him less and less physically able to control his body every day. And while Mom says there’s no cure, Golden is convinced that his dad can beat this, just like any opponent, they just have to try.
Golden knows that if you want to perfect a skill you have to put ten thousand tries in, so he’s convinced if he can put that much effort in, on and off the field, he can stop everything from changing. But when his dad continues to decline and his constant pushing starts to alienate his friends and team, Golden is forced to confront the idea that being master of your universe might not mean being in control of everything. What if it means letting go of the things you can’t control so you can do the most good for the things you can?
Peter Lee’s Notes From the Field
Published: March 2, 2021
Eleven year-old Peter Lee has one goal in life: to become a paleontologist. Okay, maybe two: to get his genius kid-sister, L.B., to leave him alone. But his summer falls apart when his real-life dinosaur expedition turns out to be a bust, and he watches his dreams go up in a cloud of asthma-inducing dust.
Even worse, his grandmother, Hammy, is sick, and no one will talk to Peter or L.B. about it. Perhaps his days as a scientist aren’t quite behind him yet. Armed with notebooks and pens, Peter puts his observation and experimental skills to the test to see what he can do for Hammy. If only he can get his sister to be quiet for once — he needs time to sketch out a plan.
Best Middle-Grade Books About Sports (Gymnastics)
Published: February 4, 2020
When Mia moves to Vermont the summer after seventh grade, she’s recovering from the broken arm she got falling off a balance beam. And packed away in the moving boxes under her clothes and gymnastics trophies is a secret she’d rather forget.
Mia’s change in scenery brings day camp, new friends, and time with her beloved grandmother. But Gram is convinced someone is trying to destroy her cricket farm. Is it sabotage or is Gram’s thinking impaired from the stroke she suffered months ago? Mia and her friends set out to investigate, but can they uncover the truth in time to save Gram’s farm? And will that discovery empower Mia to confront the secret she’s been hiding–and find the courage she never knew she had?
In a compelling story rich with friendship, science, and summer fun, a girl finds her voice while navigating the joys and challenges of growing up.
Gold Medal Summer
Published: June 1, 2012
Joey Jordan loves gymnastics: the thrill of performing a backflip on the beam, the cheers of the audience when she sticks a landing. But even with all her talent and style, she’s never quite made it to that gold medal stand.
Now big changes shake up Joey’s life in and out of the gym. Joey wants to break out some daring new beam and floor routines–but she’ll have to defy her strict coach to do it. Her best friend, Alex, is thinking about quitting gymnastics for good. And an old friend named Tanner just moved back to town, and he’s suddenly gotten very, very cute. Can Joey handle all the challenges coming her way, and make her gold medal summer happen at last?
Drawing on her real-life experience as a competitive gymnast, acclaimed novelist Donna Freitas delivers both a terrific gymnastics story and a classic novel about stretching some limits, bending the rules, and finding your balance.
[bctt tweet=”53 middle-grade books about sports featuring work by @laurielmorrison, @henakhanbooks, @laurashovan, @buffalojenn, @ivamarie, @eklages, and more!” username=”afomaumesi”]
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.
Great post! 👍😍
Afoma Umesi says
Thanks so much for reading, Carol! And I saw that you shared the post on Twitter too. Thank you! 🥰
My pleasure! 😍👍
Man, no wonder boys aren’t reading as much. Seems like there are hardly any books out there about sports about boys any more. Hardly any male authors either. I know it’s just one person’s list but it’s a bummer.
Afoma Umesi says
There are many great male authors, but perhaps not writing about sports as much. I also hardly read male authors, but this definitely shows me I should make a list of books with boy protagonists. I think that would be useful. Thanks for reading, Scott.
Rachel E. says
What did you think of One Last Shot? I had a hard time reading it because it seemed so traumatic for Malcolm that it made me really uncomfortable. I haven’t really seen any other reviewers mention that dynamic. It didn’t feel like a typical “overbearing dad” narrative, it felt very trauma-based. I’d be keen to know your thoughts!
Afoma Umesi says
Hi Rachel, thanks for sharing that! It was definitely hard to read at times, but I think what helped me was knowing that Malcolm did like miniature golf. His dad was problematic for sure — more than just overbearing. Thanks again for sharing. I’m in the middle of listening to the audiobook and enjoying it.
I recently read the Ghost series! So well done!
Miriam Falk says
Mike Lupica has written a number of sports-related middle grades. The best one I’ve read so far is called Heat.