You'll notice that it never dies
in stadiums it occupies.
Nor does it ever sprout a weed.
Its mudlessness is guaranteed.
It won't turn brown, it doesn't grow.
It's not a surface that you mow.
It's real estate that's custom made
upon which many sports are played.
Here are my five picks, for players of all ages:
Certainly your first question might be, Jabberwocky? Yes. This Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carroll and illustrated by Christopher Myers (2007), is an interpretation of the original poem in which only the first and last verses are left in tact. The rest is rhymed and reimagined around the Jabberwock, a menacing basketball presence, and the players he faces on the court. To say more would be to spoil the tale, as the verse and artwork are both fabulous, and well worth a look.
Another unusual sports poetry book for older readers is Jump Ball: A Basketball Season in Poems, by Mel Glenn (1997). Jump Ball follows a basketball season at Tower High School including all of the "players." Told for the most part in free verse, there is rap and shape poetry as well. The narrative of the season, and defining tragic event, even includes mixed in broadcast accounts of the games. Though cliche in parts, the overall treatment is novel and entertaining.
In addition to organized sports, sometimes it is just fun to be outside and moving. A Stick is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play by Marilyn Singer and LeUyen Pham (2012) is a celebration of universal types of play, from hide 'n seek to hopscotch to catch. The poems follow one group of children all over their neighborhood on a summer day. Each entry is simple and read-out-loudable. The word play is as much fun as the action.
Everything's a blast
when you do it really fast!
A little history makes a play in The Fastest Game on Two Feet: And Other Poems about How Sports Began by Alice Low and John O'Brien (2009). Here we get poems preceded by fun facts about the origins of sports from ancient times to modern day. Who could resist a book that claims the original soccer ball might have been a skull! And what role did religion play in some early sports?
Under the heading of basketball, we learn of James Naismith's Predicament
"I don't want a game
where you run with the ball
for someone would tackle
and someone would fall..." it begins.
What does he want for his 'new' game? What doesn't he want? How should it be played? What does he use and what should he call it? Read, rhyme and learn!
Sometimes we are not even good at something (swimming!) but love to do it anyway. That's what we take away from one of the 17 untitled poems in Good Sports: Rhymes about Running, Jumping, Throwing and More by Jack Prelutsky and Chris Raschka (2011). The energy and humor of these short poems make the reading zip along.
"I'm skating down the sidewalk,
I'm a meteor on wheels..."
The artwork of this skateboarder carries us along as readily as the rhyme. Younger readers will find it hard to keep still after playing along with each of the narrators. These poems will get you moving!