Friday, November 02, 2018

Attucks and Out of Bounds

37901946Hoose, Phillip. Attucks!: Oscar Robertson and the Basketball Team That Awakened a City
October 23rd 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

In the 1940s and 50s, while baseball was slowly integrating, basketball was still definitely segregated, especially in the hoops-crazy state of Indiana. Even small town schools built enormous gymnasiums for basketball, and Indianapolis had Butler University's huge facility, Hinkle Fieldhouse. In one neighborhood of the city, however, there was not a huge gym. The area surrounding Attucks High School was almost solely African Americans, many of whom were economically disadvantaged. The community took great pride in its school, however, and had excellent faculty and good students. They worked on putting together a good basketball team as well, even though it was hard to get other schools to play, and then it was hard to get referees who would make fair calls. Even once they got through a season, they were not allowed to play in tournaments. Once Coach Ray Crowe took over the team, he encouraged his players to be their best, and started to recruit players who were not necessarily the most well-to-do students. The team started doing better and better, and the success of the Attucks team fed the passion for basketball already well-developed in the state. Once Oscar Robertson was on the team, it did better and better, and soon so much attention was being paid to the team that some of the discrimination eased up.

This was an interesting mix of basketball and Civil Rights history, and Hoose (whose research for this started in 1986, with tape recorded interviews!) does a great job of balancing basketball descriptions with Civil Rights issues. When I got tired of reading about basketball, there would be historical information to keep me interested; when students are reading this, they will get bored with THAT, and be glad of the basketball, so it's perfect! I learned a lot of things, like why basketball season runs when it does (after the harvest to before spring planting!) and why the Harlem Globetrotters exist (black basketball players were not common  in the NBA until well after 1950).

Hoose also does a great job of trying to explain the cultural zeitgeist of Indianapolis, and adds a lot of good details about the daily life of the players he discusses. This is an excellent book for middle grade readers who love basketball and a sneaky way to get them to learn about the history of Civil Rights, much in the same way as Maraniss' Strong Inside teaches them about a slightly later period.

38533015Delle Donne, Elena. Out of Bounds (Hoops #3)
October 16th 2018 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Elle is finally becoming organized, partly because of the scheduling phone app her friend installed, and is learning to balance basketball, volunteering, walking her new dog, and socializing. However, she's still struggling with basketball. She doesn't think she's doing a great job, and her coach is on her case. Not only that, but another girl on the team, Bianca, is outwardly hostile and aggressive about Elle being the forward while she is not. It doesn't help that Elle's friend and neighbor, Blake, is "going out" with Bianca. Her other teammates are supportive, and her coach explains that she thinks Elle can be really good, which is why she is hard on her. Still, it's not fun anymore. Around Thanksgiving time, Elle's family has a great weekend, and soon after Elle decides that basketball just isn't her thing right now. How will her friends and family take it when she breaks the news?
Strengths: There are so many middle grade books with Serious Problems that I'm thrilled when I see one with smaller problems that loom large in the middle school mind. Mean girls, balancing one's time, dealing with family and homework and friends... all concerns that we forget can be devastating. Sure, it's not death or dismemberment or destruction, but middle school readers will definitely identify with Elle's struggles, and it's good to see her work through most things successfully, if not quickly or easily. There are so few books about basketball with female protagonists, so it is great to see this series!
Weaknesses: This comes fairly close to some hand-wringing angst, but at least that's usually when Elle is able to step back and have some fun. I hope she has more success in the next book, though!
What I really think: I enjoy this series, and would love to see Delle Donne do a book or two for slightly older readers addressing slightly more mature problems.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for letting me know about these! Our library system has the Hoops series but not this latest one nor do we have the Attucks! book but I will notify She Who Orders Books and see if we could get it. They look great and I'll wait for both of them. North Carolina is also a hotbed of basketball, especially college ball. As soon as you can say your first word, you have to declare if you're for Carolina, Duke or NC State. (the list included Wake Forest at one time but not so much any more) If Hogwarts were in NC, there would be a college basketball team Sorting Hat. You can change your allegiance but then your parents have to go to the courthouse and fill out all kinds of forms, so it's best just to wait until high school when you're declared a legal basketball adult and can choose your own team.