Lucy Tries Basketball
Lucy Tries Basketball
Hold the ball up like this. Now aim, then flick your wrist.
Keep trying, Lucy! It’s okay if you miss."
The newest book in the “Lucy Tries Sports” series (adding to her previous encounters with soccer, short track, luge, and hockey) encourages children to participate in fun, physical recreation. The reader meets Lucy who loves playing on the playground outside. Lucy joins her friend Ava who is on the playground’s court playing basketball with her cousin Jermaine, an adult who we learn is a professional athlete. Jermaine teaches Lucy and her friends introductory skills to the sport, and they all have a great time, learning that fun and participation – not scoring – is the goal. Even the title, Lucy Tries Basketball, puts a sweet, gentle emphasis on the effort and acts as a subtle, open invitation for kids who are reading it to try new things too. After they have a short game of 3 on 3, Jermaine invites them to see him play in a professional game (no sign of the parents accompanying them in the stands, but we’re not concerned with that). Jermaine’s team scores a dramatic, last-second victory, and everyone goes home happy.
Not only is Lucy Tries Basketball a lovely, happy little story, but it’s also informative. Lucy and her friends learn specific skills, like dribbling, passing to a teammate, and different kinds of shots you can make for the net. The illustrations employ arrows to show direction for footwork, passing, and dribbling. When Lucy tries to shoot for the net, she doesn’t get it right away, but that’s okay! Refreshingly, this book doesn’t even fall back on “practice makes perfect” – perfection isn’t the goal, and you don’t have to be good at something to enjoy trying it.
At the back of the book, there’s a page with “fast facts” about basketball, from the history of the game, to famous players, the NBA, and accessibility. The reader learns that sports are for everyone – people with disabilities can and should be included like everyone else. A short blurb tells the reader that, in Canada, “wheelchair basketball is played by both able-bodied people and those with disabilities”. In the story, Lucy passes to her friend Brett who, from his wheelchair, plays basketball with the rest of the kids. On the topic of diversity and inclusivity, there is a lovely, diverse range of skin colours represented among all the kids in the story.
James Herne delights with cute, friendly, and bright illustrations that show everyone getting along in a safe and welcoming environment. The backgrounds are spare, and sometimes the characters just stand out on the page with a blank page behind them. Because nothing is too detailed, that gives the characters and their facial expressions (their determined little eyebrows are so endearing) a simple appeal. Kids will be able to put themselves in the characters’ shoes and see that nothing about the experience need be threatening or scary.
The text of Lucy Tries Basketball is short with a nice rhyming cadence. The first and last page break the fourth wall as the characters look out at the reader. On the first page, Lucy waves hello, and, on the last, she stands with her friends around her and points her finger out at the reader as the text finishes, “Basketball’s fun to watch. Basketball’s fun to play. Lucy, Ava and friends hope you’ll try it someday!”.
Andrea Zorzi is a children's librarian at Toronto Public Library.