Finding books about their favorite activity is a great way to hook a reader! If your kid loves sports, whether it's basketball, soccer or even cheerleading, this list of sports graphic novels is for them. These exciting books will keep even the most reluctant of readers laughing, "wow-ing," and most importantly of all, turning pages.
This collection of graphic novels about kids who love sports includes primarily fiction, but I've included a couple of great graphic novel biographies about historically important players, as well.
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Sports Graphic Novels: Fiction
These are some of our favorite fiction stories about kids who play all kinds of sports, from swimming to basketball to baseball.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile
This is a graphic novel adaptation of Alexander's verse novel of the same name. The story tale about twin brothers is touching, relatable and extraordinarily engaging. Josh narrates his story of coming to terms with his brother's new girlfriend, sibling rivalry, the pressure and joy of playing basketball and his relationship with his father. The second graphic, Booked, also an adaptation of the original verse novel, is about a boy who plays soccer. Ages 10 and up.
The Tryout by Christina Soontornvat, illustrated by Joanna Cacao
Soontornvat was inspired by her own experience to pen this terrific graphic novel about a seventh grader who tries out for the cheerleading team. Christina, whose father immigrated from Thailand, and her best friend, Iranian-American Megan, decide to try out for cheerleading, in the hopes that it will help them make friends and rise in the ranks of the middle school social scene. For the most part, the girls enjoy the experience, but their friendship experiences some strain and both girls endure racist comments in their majority-white, small Texan town. Christina also enjoys a strong and loving relationship with her parents and extended family. Fabulous. Ages 8 and up.
Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas
Enith Brigitha is not looking forward to having to take swimming lessons in middle school. Enith's elderly neighbor, Etta, used to be a swimming team captain and takes on the task of coaching Enith. Despite her insecurity about swimming, Enith improves with hard work and competes with her team, the Mighty Manatees. Ages 8 and up.
Chunky (series) by Yehudi Mercado
Hudi's parents are concerned about his weight and health and encourage him to go out for a sports team. Hudi's imaginary friend, Chunky, convinces him to try baseball but Hudi's talents lie not in sports. Hudi, the only Mexican-Jewish kid in his Texas neighborhood, prefers theater and comedy. An uplifting and funny graphic novel with a very likable protagonist. Ages 8 and up.
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Graphic novels are a great choice for middle grade readers. Both my boys thought Roller Girl was "awesome." For once, Astrid decides to try something different than her best friend. Instead of dance camp, she signs up for roller camp. Roller camp proves to be challenging, physically and emotionally and it is by participating in roller derby that Astrid discovers her inner strength. Ages 9 and up.
MORE: Our Best Graphic Novels of 2022Favorite Graphic Novels of the Year
Hoops by Matt Tavares
Note: will be published March 2023. I have not yet been able to review this book but have high hopes that it will be great and so am including it on this list as a placeholder. I will update this blurb after I have a chance to read it. Hoops is based on a true story. In 1976, an Indiana girls basketball team makes it all the way to the state championship, but along the way they face administrators and athletic directors who dismiss their worthiness because of their gender. Ages 8 and up.
The Fifth Quarter (series)
Fourth grader, Lori, loves basketball and signs up to play whenever she gets the chance. She mistakenly believes her teammate, Elyse, is a rival, but comes to learn Elyse actually admires her. At the same time, Lori's mother is running for a seat on the the town council and provides a good role model of a woman who pursues a goal even though she may not succeed. Ages 8 and up.
The Breakaways by Cathy G. Johnson
In her search for a place to fit in at her new middle school, Faith joins the girls' soccer team. Faith loves to draw and has a vivid imagination. Her fellow C-team players are an eclectic group of kids who are navigating a host of social and personal circumstances, as well as exploring their identities. However, the friendships that develop allow them to support each other, and even though they never quite become good soccer players, they develop as people and as friends. Ages 10 and up.
Sports Illustrated Graphic Novels for Kids, authors vary
For kids who can't get enough sports related reading material, the large library of graphic novels published by Sports Illustrated will be just what they need. The books are written and illustrated by respected author/illustrators. I obviously haven't read every book in the series, and while the narratives may not be as complex as, and gear towards a younger audience than the other selections on this book list, kids will enjoy the stories. An additional benefit is that the series covers a wide array of sportsfrom football to soccer, including many you may not immediately think of like BMX, track and field, and skateboarding. Ages 6 and up.
Nonfiction Sports Graphic Novels
I found a few excellent nonfiction sports graphic novel biographies. I also enjoyed 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente by Wilfred Santiago, but recommend it as a YA (12 and up) reading choice.
Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow by James Sturm, illustrated by Rich Tommaso
Fans of baseball and history will enjoy this short graphic novel account of Satchel Paige's time as a Negro League ball player in an era when Black players weren't allowed to play on teams with white players. It's not a traditional biography, but gives an intriguing account of life in the Negro League. The novel's narrator, Emmet, is an 18 year old father and rookie player who describes watching Satchel play. Emmet has to return to his home and work as laborer in Alabama, where the harsh realities of living in the Jim Crow South are ever present. When his son is older, Emmet is able to take his son to watch Satchel play. Ages 11 and up
Pelé King of Soccer by Eddy Simon, illustrated by Vincent Brascaglia
This graphic novel biography of Brazilian fútbol star, Pelé is fantastic. You know a book is good when it's about sports and I can't put it down. Author/Illustrator team Simon and Brascaglia convey the storied life of the greatest soccer player, from his youth, when he was nurtured to love the game by his father, to his amazing career and work as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. Translated from French. Ages 8 and up.