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March 2017 Intermediate

February 20th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | March - (Comments Off on March 2017 Intermediate)

Game Changer: John McLendon and the Secret Game by John Coy. Illustrated by Randy DuBurke. Carolrhoda, 2015

In 1944, the Duke University Medical School basketball team played a secret game against five members of the Eagles from the North Carolina College of Negroes in defiance of segregation laws. The match was arranged by Eagles coach John McLendon, who had an African American father and Delaware Indian mother, and believed an interracial game could help erase prejudice. The Eagles blew out Duke with a final score of 88 to 44, dominating the play with their new fast-break attacking style. A second game of shirts and skins followed, with players from both teams mixing to make a more evenly matched competition. In a post-game gathering at the Eagles’ dormitory, all players agreed to keep the game secret in order to protect one another and Coach McLendon from legal liability or social retribution. A concluding sentence of this captivating story pays tribute to Coach McLendon and the players of both teams who “were years ahead of their time” on the road to athletic racial integration.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What was the significance of these two teams playing together? Why was it important for this game to be secret?
  2. Why do you think the author titled this book “Game Changer”? What are some of the different meanings of “game changer” in the book?
  3. Have you ever changed your assumptions about someone once you got to know them?
  4. Why do you think the illustrator changed the style of the art after the game?

The Way Home Looks Now by Wendy Wan-Long Shang. Scholastic Press, 2015

Peter’s Taiwanese American family is struggling since the death of his older brother, Nelson. Peter, Nelson, and their mother shared a love of baseball, so Peter tries out for a team in hopes it will spark his mother’s interest, since she’s so sad she rarely leaves the couch. But it’s Ba who gets involved, volunteering to coach Peter’s team. Angry that his father, who argued with Nelson about the Vietnam War, can’t make things at home better, Peter is now embarrassed by him as a coach. But turns out Ba has been paying attention to baseball—he even played as a boy—and to what’s happening at home more than Peter knew. A novel grounded in the perspective of a child in a family working through grief also succeeds as an accessible, engaging sports story, one that addresses changing social norms in the 1970s.When one of the team’s best players, Aaron, turns out to be Erin—a girl—parents threaten to pull their sons from the team. Ba leaves it up to the kids to decide if she should stay. Meanwhile, there are moments when Peter’s mother shows a spark, but baseball is not a magic cure. Time, says Ba. Nuanced characters, including Peter’s mother and Nelson, both developed in flashbacks, are among the story’s many strengths. (MS) ©2015 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How do the different characters handle grief?
  2. How does baseball bring people together in this story? How does it change their views of each other?
  3. How did you feel when you learned Erin was a girl?

Find more resources at TeachingBooks.net.

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