The best books featuring boys who crave success

The Books I Picked & Why

Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time

By Lisa Yee

Book cover of Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time

Why this book?

Stanford isn’t a happy camper when, because of a failing grade in English, he has to go to summer school instead of basketball camp. Used to being a star basketball player, he’s embarrassed by this new turn of events. Millicent Min as his tutor is the last straw. I love how the plot and various situations, along with his parents’ bickering and his grandmother entering a nursing home, feel real and something today’s kids can relate to. And also how, despite Stanford’s disappointments, he puts forth his best efforts all the while he tries to manage his problems. There’s plenty of humor, too.


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One Last Shot

By John David Anderson

Book cover of One Last Shot

Why this book?

I love how Malcolm, a kid who doesn’t like sports despite his athletic dad’s enthusiastic encouragement, finally finds a place to call his own in mini-golf. Malcolm has always felt like a loser but once he signs up for lessons and meets some friends, he slowly improves, in his game and in his opinion of himself. Unfortunately, Malcolm also carries the weight of feeling it’s up to him to keep his parents’ troubled marriage together. With tournaments and family problems mounting high, this is an exciting read. The eighteen chapters, set up like holes on a golf course, are a fun addition.


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Ten Thousand Tries

By Amy Makechnie

Book cover of Ten Thousand Tries

Why this book?

Golden Maroni is a well-drawn main character who dreams of success on the soccer field. At the same time, he tries to take care of those he loves in the best way he knows how. If he works hard and becomes a great soccer player, then maybe his dad can recover from ALS, and maybe his best friend won’t move away. There are several heavy topics in this book, but they are done with skill and sensitivity. I love the ten thousand hours theme of working towards your goals, but also the poignant truth that not all goals can be achieved by this method.


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Sidetracked

By Diana Harmon Asher

Book cover of Sidetracked

Why this book?

Joseph Friedman of Sidetracked is yet another likable character who feels he is terrible at everything, including all sports. Having ADD doesn’t help. But when he’s encouraged to join his school track team, he finds he enjoys trying to beat his own personal best even if he still isn’t very good. I especially enjoyed how Joseph finds new meaning in his life and a new friend, Heather, who can even stand up to the school bully. She’s a wonderful help to Joseph and boosts his confidence. Together they form a great team.


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Power Forward

By Hena Khan

Book cover of Power Forward

Why this book?

Zayd is a couple of years younger (4th grade) than the main characters of my other book picks, but again, he is a boy seeking fame and glory through sports. In particular, I enjoy his voice and learning about the Pakastani (Muslim) culture of his interesting family. The frustrating pull between basketball and playing the violin sets up several intriguing situations. This is a fun story that turns out to be the first book in a series of four.


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