Game Changer: John McLendon and the Secret Game

illus. by Randy DuBurke. 32p. bibliog. chron. ebook available. Carolrhoda. Oct. 2015. lib. ed. $17.99. ISBN 9781467726047. LC 2015000910.
Gr 1–4—With eloquence and grace, this picture book tells the story of how one spring Sunday afternoon in 1944, two basketball teams came together to change the history of the game. The Duke University Medical School basketball team met secretly in a small gym to play against the North Carolina College of Negros in the first ever intergrated basketball game. Though rules kept black and white teams from playing each other, John McLendon, coach of the North Carolina College of Negros, "believed basketball could change people's prejudices." At first both teams were uncertain, but they soon got into the spirit of things. For their second game, they mixed up the teams so that white and black athletes could play as teammates. Coy doesn't sugarcoat the tension of the period but still makes the story accessible. DuBurke's soft but powerful watercolor illustrations effectively emphasize the importance of inclusivity and overcoming differences. This interesting but little-known story is an important one.
VERDICT A strong work with themes of sports, history, and social consciousness.

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