The best sporty middle grade novels for athletes and non-athletes alike

Who am I?

I’ve always loved watching and playing sports, and now I love writing about them, too. As a former teacher, I’ve seen firsthand how sporty books appeal to sporty kids. But after publishing my novel Up for Air, which is about a star swimmer, I’ve been struck by how many readers tell me they connected deeply with the main character even though they don’t like sports at all. That made me think about what makes sports stories resonate, and now I look out for books that capitalize on all the most exciting and relatable things about sports while also offering compelling hooks to readers with all sorts of interests.


I wrote...

Coming Up Short

By Laurie Morrison,

Book cover of Coming Up Short

What is my book about?

Bea’s parents think she can accomplish absolutely anything. But at the end of seventh grade, on the day she makes a play to send her softball team to the league championships and Xander, the boy she likes, makes it clear that he likes her too, a scandal shakes up her world. Bea’s dad took money that belonged to a client. He’s now suspended from practicing law, and another lawyer spread the news online. To make matters worse, that lawyer is Xander’s dad.

The thing she was best at seems to be slipping out of her fingers along with her formerly happy family. She's not sure what's going to be harder—learning to throw again or forgiving her dad. How can she be the best version of herself when everything she loves is falling apart?

The books I picked & why

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Bea Is for Blended

By Lindsey Stoddard,

Book cover of Bea Is for Blended

Why this book?

This heartwarming novel is full of soccer, touching family dynamics, and girl power. It stars a feisty sixth-grader named Bea who has to adjust to a new house, a new school, a new blended family, and a new neighbor who’s gunning for her position on the soccer field. At first, Bea is determined to look out for herself and protect her turf, but then she and her neighbor team up to fight against sexism and form the first-ever all-girls squad. The team dynamics in this book will make any reader cheer. Soccer fans will love the on-field action, but this gem of a novel also has humor, emotional depth, delightful and inspiring characters, and even references to the beloved Katherine Paterson novel Bridge to Terabithia!

Bea Is for Blended

By Lindsey Stoddard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bea Is for Blended as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Girl power scores a goal in this uplifting story of teamwork, new beginnings, and coming together to fight for what’s right—perfect for fans of Lisa Graff and Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

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…


Taking Up Space

By Alyson Gerber,

Book cover of Taking Up Space

Why this book?

Alyson Gerber nails the emotional, physical, and interpersonal aspects of sports in this story about twelve-year-old Sarah, who feels best about herself when she’s playing basketball until her body starts changing and she can’t play as well as she used to. With wisdom and compassion, Gerber shows how Sarah’s desperate desire to regain her basketball skills leads to a struggle with disordered eating. Taking Up Space opens important conversations about diet culture and self-esteem, and I love the way it explores what happens when puberty interferes with an athlete’s ability to perform. The basketball scenes are fast-paced and engaging, and the book also has cooking, crushes, complex parent characters, and compelling friend dynamics—plenty of hooks for all types of readers. 

Taking Up Space

By Alyson Gerber,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Taking Up Space as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

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…


Dough Boys

By Paula Chase,

Book cover of Dough Boys

Why this book?

I love Dough Boys because it’s an engrossing, authentic story about basketball, music, friendship, and the hard decisions thirteen-year-old kids sometimes have to make. It follows Rollie and Simp, best friends who play on an elite basketball team in their low-income neighborhood...but playing on the team means getting involved as lookouts for a local drug ring, and the boys have very different feelings about the pressures and responsibilities they face. Basketball scenes provide an entryway into important topics, and through the two well-developed protagonists, Chase explores what happens when a sport feels like your only chance at the future you want, and what happens when you’re no longer sure you love a game that used to be part of your identity.

Dough Boys

By Paula Chase,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dough Boys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the companion to her acclaimed So Done, Paula Chase follows best friends Simp and Rollie as their friendship is threatened by the pressures of basketball, upcoming auditions, middle school, and their growing involvement in the local drug ring.

Dough Boys is a memorably vivid story about the complex friendship between two African American boys whose lives are heading down very different paths. For fans of Jason Reynolds's Ghost and Rebecca Stead's Goodbye Stranger.

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…


Ana on the Edge

By A.J. Sass,

Book cover of Ana on the Edge

Why this book?

Ana on the Edge is a powerful novel about figure skating and gender identity that’s equally perfect for figure skating enthusiasts and kids looking for LGBTQIA+ stories. It’s obvious from the first page that the author is a figure skater who knows the sport intimately, but the sparkling skating scenes are just as fun and accessible for readers who watch the occasional Olympic figure skating competition as they would be for insiders. And the most special part of this book is the poignant way it depicts a kid who is figuring out the gender identity that feels right while competing in a very gendered sport. I loved Ana and could not put this book down; I know many readers will feel the same.

Ana on the Edge

By A.J. Sass,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ana on the Edge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Twelve-year-old Ana-Marie Jin, the reigning US Juvenile figure skating champion, is not a frilly dress kind of kid. So, when Ana learns that next season's program will be princess themed, doubt forms fast. Still, Ana tries to focus on training and putting together a stellar routine worthy of national success.

Once Ana meets Hayden, a transgender boy new to the rink, thoughts about the princess program and gender identity begin to take center stage. And when Hayden mistakes Ana for a boy, Ana doesn't correct him and finds comfort in this boyish identity when he's around. As their friendship develops,…


Much Ado about Baseball

By Rajani LaRocca,

Book cover of Much Ado about Baseball

Why this book?

How can baseball, math, salty snacks, and Shakespeare fit together in one book? I’m not entirely sure, but somehow, Rajani LaRocca has combined these seemingly disparate elements to create Much Ado About Baseball, a delightful retelling of Much Ado About Nothing. This magical summer adventure features two equally lovable main characters, Trish and Ben, math rivals turned baseball teammates who come together to solve a problem. I love that there’s a female pitcher on a team of mostly boys, and I love all the connections LaRocca makes between baseball and math. Whether kids are baseball fans, math whizzes, or neither of these things, they’re sure to enjoy this charming novel, which also features an extremely sweet dog.

Much Ado about Baseball

By Rajani LaRocca,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Much Ado about Baseball as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Much Ado About Baseball is the best children's book I've read in the past 10 years!" -Brad Thor, New York Times bestselling author of the Scot Harvath series

"A moving tale of baseball, magic, and former rivals who come together to solve a problem." -Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

In this companion novel to Midsummer's Mayhem, math and baseball combine with savory snacks to cause confusion and calamity in the town of Comity by Newbery-Honor winner Rajani LaRocca.

Twelve-year-old Trish can solve tough math problems and throw a mean fastball. But because of her mom's new job, she's now facing a…


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