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Children's Nonfiction Basketball

Hoop Genius

How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball

by (author) John Coy

illustrated by Joe Morse

Lerner Publishing Group
Initial publish date
Jan 2013
Basketball, School & Education, 19th Century
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2013
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 7 to 11
  • Grade: 2 to 5
  • Reading age: 8 to 9


Taking over a rowdy gym class right before winter vacation is not something James Naismith wants to do at all. The last two teachers of this class quit in frustration. The students—a bunch of energetic young men—are bored with all the regular games and activities. Naismith needs something new, exciting, and fast to keep the class happy—or someone's going to get hurt. Saving this class is going to take a genius. Discover the true story of how Naismith invented basketball in 1891 at a school in Springfield, Massachusetts.

About the authors

John Coy is the author of young adult novels, the 4 for 4 middle-grade series, and nonfiction and fiction picture books including Hoop Genius, Game Changer, Their Great Gift, Dads, and If We Were Gone. He has received numerous awards for his work including a Marion Vannett Ridgway Award, a Charlotte Zolotow Honor, a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year, and the Burr/Warzalla Award for Distinguished Achievement in Children's Literature. John lives by the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.

John Coy's profile page

Joe Morse is an award-winning illustrator and artist. His work has graced everything from billboards in England to coins in Canada. He directs the Illustration Degree program at Sheridan Institute outside of Toronto. Joe lives in Toronto with his wife, the illustrator/designer Lorraine Tuson, and their 2 children.

Joe Morse's profile page


  • Commended, Louisiana Young Readers' Choice
  • Winner, National Endowment for the Humanities Nonfiction Booklist for Young Readers
  • Nominated, Illinois Monarch Award
  • Nominated, Volunteer State Book Award
  • Long-listed, Virginia Readers' Choice Award
  • Nominated, North Carolina Children's Book Award
  • Winner, Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year
  • Nominated, Star Of The North Picture Book Award
  • Winner, South Carolina Book Award
  • Winner, South Carolina Book Award
  • Winner, Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) Choices
  • Nominated, Black Eyed Susan Book Awards
  • Winner, Booklist Top 10 Sports Books for Youth

Editorial Reviews

"Naismith's story offers an excellent way to reach reluctant readers when launching a research project or collaborating across disciplines." —Library Media Connection

"Coy understands the power of detail . . . and his tight focus on the game's initial season is immediately engrossing. Spare, precise language reflects the game's welcome sense of order as well as its athletic appeal. Morse's kinetic paintings, at once dynamic and controlled, fill the spreads, capturing the game's combination of power and finesse."—starred, The Horn Book Magazine

"Well researched with material artifacts and primary sources, this classic story is boosted significantly by big, blocky, muscular illustrations in muted tones that effortlessly mix tongue-in-cheek whimsy with serious action. Anybody who plays the game or watches it ought to find this pretty engrossing." —Booklist

"There's a bit of Otto Dix in Morse's distinctive paintings, with their angular contours and somber, blue-tinted skin, which lends an incongruous, though not displeasing, coolness to the notably hot-blooded sport." —The New York Times Book Review

"Morse's energetic illustrations add an old-fashioned charm to the narrative....This entertaining and informative story will delight young sports fans." —School Library Journal

"The fun here is in the contrast between Coy's straightforward narration and the stylized mayhem of Morse's cast of maroon-shirted, all-American-looking college guys." —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

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