"Basketball Beyond the Floor"

I am sad. I am sad because this edition of "Basketball Beyond the Floor" marks the last one of the season until next summer. But I am also excited since a new feature "Behind Enemy Lines" will be starting next week in its place here on the DNB. Please continue to tune in every Thursday when I will be taking a look at the Raptors' opponents for the coming week, talk strategy and everything else under the sun. Today, we will be discussing two books for the junior basketball fan: Arthur and the Pen-Pal Playoff by Mark Brown and Steve Nash: Most Valuable Player by Peter Bailey. Each book does its job in attracting the potential young fan and educates as well. However, both have different audiences and targeted for two different age groups. Let's dive in.

"Arthur" Does His Job

"Arthur! I love that show!" was the reaction I got when I tested this book out on a grade one student on my street. I know some of you might be thinking the student only got excited because of the television connection first but if it got them to read it or even get excited about a book about basketball, who cares. Arthur and the Pen-Pal Playoff has a few characters on the front smiling with a net in the background. First image of the story is very important for the young reader and potential fan of the game. It is not until page 10 the subject actually turns to basketball. Arthur's class writes to pen pals across the state (yes, American based) and Arthur over-brags about his basketball abilities only to find out his pal did too. I liked how this book used basketball terminology: "Arthur slowly dribbled in from the back court. Sue Ellen was guarding him again. Arthur had to keep dribbling no matter what, because once he stopped, he wouldn't be able to start again - he'd have to pass or shoot". I loved how this related the game's rules to the young reader in a very conversational way. However, without a glossary of terms at the back, the young reader not familiar with the terminology might get lost.

Also, every kid has their likes and dislikes and what drew my test case into this book, may drive another one away from it. Not every kid likes Arthur so the fact that the cover has some characters playing basketball on it might not be enough for them to read it. But if you can get them to at least page 37, you will have them hooked: "Now, Arthur, basketball is a game of parts. None of us is good at all of them - we each have our own specialty. For Francine it's dribbling. Binky has rebounding, Sue Ellen relies on her jump shot, Buster has positioning, and I have general conditioning". A very basic way to describe the game but an important way to do it for the target age group - grade one to three maybe. Though the younger kindergarten kids would definitely be able to follow along if an adult read it to them - it has many pictures in it and big print. At this age, they need to know however small or underdeveloped their talents are, it is still a valuable contribution to the team. If they don't enjoy some sense of confidence or success, the game won't be fun for them and sadly, will not stick with the sport.

Steve Nash - Our Greatest Export

I love the quotation from Steve Nash's High school coach Ian Hyde-Lay to start chapter one: "There was a kind of sparkle in his eyes that just tells you he's a little different than most guys". In Steve Nash: Most Valuable Player, author Peter Bailey does a good job of putting Nash's life to print. This book even has a glossary of terms at the back which was lacking in Arthur and the Pen-Pal Playoff. This book is geared for the senior elementary school student and any fan of Steve Nash looking for a quick summary of his rise to fame. You'll learn about his life outside of basketball such as being born in Johannesburg, South Africa and moving to Canada before his first birthday. But the real credibility for this book and Steve Nash as a mentor for young kids, came on page 6: "It was in grade eight that Steve first played basketball, and he came home one day and told [his] mom that he was going to play in the NBA when he got older. 'I didn't doubt him' she said. 'Whether he'd make it or not, you don't know, but I knew he was going to give it a heck of a try because he works hard for what he gets." This idea that kids need to be playing ball as soon as they come out of the womb to be successful at it is ridiculous. I think there is a tendency for kids to specialize way to early with the idea they are going to have a career in the pros one day. Steve Nash was obsessed with all sports but it was that obsession that almost killed his basketball career. His grades slipped and it wasn't until he switched to a private school in Victoria, concentrated on his academics and took a year off the sport, did he really improve as a player and as a student. I like how he was exposed to all sports and how he wasn't the tallest player but because he was the hardest working, he was the best player: "The drive to be the best, to prove himself over and over again, has always motivated Steve more than money or fame". Do yourself a favour. Start your Christmas shopping today. If there is a young athlete you have to buy for, get them this book and a basketball and see what happens. You may just thank me for it.

Flick Pick of the Week

I remembered seeing this one as a kid and it is more of a short cartoon than a flick pick. Look up "Goofy-Basketball Double-Dribble" on You Tube or just google it. I love how the 'mini' goofy finally gets his chance. It was made in 1946 before Disney went really "cute" and the clip shows the referee shooting at the player's toes to keep them behind the foul line so use discretion when deciding who to show this to.

Thank-you so much for joining me today and all summer here on the DNB for "Basketball Beyond the Floor". I hope you enjoyed it and I look forward to doing it again next summer. This doesn't mean you stop reading and telling me about it. Reading is important whether it's a magazine, newspaper, internet article or a book - it keeps you sharp and in the game. So I will still say happy reading until we meet again on Tuesday for "Jiggly Bits" and after that for my new feature "Behind Enemy Lines" next Thursday. Have a great weekend.

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