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Game Changer: John McLendon and the Secret Game



by
John Coy
illustrated by
Randy DuBurke

Edition
Library edition
Publisher
Lerner
Imprint
Carolrhoda
ISBN
9781467726047

Awards and Honors
Booklist Best Picture Books of 2015
2016 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award Recommended Book
2016 Winner, Notable Books for a Global Society
2016 CCBC Choices–Historical People, Places, and Events
2015 Cybils Awards Nomination, Elementary / Middle Grade Nonfiction
Children’s Book Committee Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books of 2016, History
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Durham, North Carolina, 1944: Coach McLendon believed “basketball could change people’s prejudices.” So, in a secret game, members of the Duke University Medical School’s team played the North Carolina College of Negroes. Author’s note. Time line. Selected bibliography. Full-color illustrations.

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Details

Format

Print

Page Count

32

Trim Size

10 5/8" x 8 7/8"

Dewey

796.32307

AR

5.7: points 0.5

Lexile

NC1170L

Genre

Nonfic

Scholastic Reading Counts

2

JLG Release

Dec 2015

Book Genres


Topics

John B. McLendon (1915-1999). U.S. basketball coaches. African American basketball coaches. Discrimination in sports. North Carolina College of Negroes. Duke University. History of basketball. Basketball games. Styles of play. Durham, North Carolina.

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Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Booklist*, The Horn Book Magazine, The Horn Book Guide^, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly*, School Library Journal

Junior Library Guild

  • A fascinating, lesser-known story of basketball and civil disobedience, featuring a clandestine game that was illegal due to segregation.
  • John McLendon is an inspirational figure. Then fairly new to coaching, McLendon was determined to “further the idea that we all played basketball, that we all played it well, and that we should be playing it together.” (McLendon was well ahead of his time—;the National Basketball Association wasn’t integrated until 1950 and the Civil Rights Act wasn’t passed until 1964.)
  • It is heartening to see that Coach McLendon’s belief was quickly proven true. At first, the athletes in both lineups were afraid to even “touch or bump into one another,” but these initial misgivings dissolved almost immediately.
  • The difference in the two teams’ playing styles is interesting and will be especially noteworthy to basketball fans: The Eagles “raced up and down the floor in McLendon’s innovative fast-break style that emphasized attacking the basket. This was basketball the white players had never seen.” The Eagles won by forty-four points and gave Duke a glimpse of “basketball of the future.”
  • Randy DuBurke’s evocative, largely monochromatic artwork adeptly conveys the time period and mood as well as the excitement of the game.

School Library Journal

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 human kindness.—Ellen Norton, Naperville Public Library, Naperville, IL

Horn Book

Based closely on a 1996 New York Times article by Scott Ellsworth, this picture book tells the dramatic story of an illegal college basketball game planned and played in secret in Jim Crow-era North Carolina. On a Sunday morning in 1944, while most Durham residents, including the police, were in church, the white members of the Duke University Medical School basketball team (considered “the best in the state”) slipped into the gym at the North Carolina College of Negroes to play the Eagles, a close-to-undefeated black team coached by future Hall of Famer John McClendon. What happened when “basketball of the present” (Duke’s three-man weaves and set shots) met “basketball of the future” (the Eagles’ pressure defense and fast breaks) is suspenseful, dramatic, and telling: the Eagles beat Duke 88–44. Afterward, pushing the boundaries even further, the players evened up the teams for a friendly game of shirts and skins. Coy’s succinct narrative is well paced, compelling, and multilayered, focusing on the remarkable game but also placing it in societal and historical context. DuBurke’s illustrations can be static at times but nicely capture the story’s atmosphere, from the tension of the Duke players’ covert arrival to the basketball action to the post-game geniality and then back to tension (since all parties, including several newspaper reporters, had to pledge to keep the day’s events secret to protect themselves and Coach McClendon). A fascinating story, with appeal far beyond sports—and history fans; appended with an author’s note, timeline, and brief bibliography. martha v. parravano

Praise & Reviews

Junior Library Guild

  • A fascinating, lesser-known story of basketball and civil disobedience, featuring a clandestine game that was illegal due to segregation.
  • John McLendon is an inspirational figure. Then fairly new to coaching, McLendon was determined to “further the idea that we all played basketball, that we all played it well, and that we should be playing it together.” (McLendon was well ahead of his time—;the National Basketball Association wasn’t integrated until 1950 and the Civil Rights Act wasn’t passed until 1964.)
  • It is heartening to see that Coach McLendon’s belief was quickly proven true. At first, the athletes in both lineups were afraid to even “touch or bump into one another,” but these initial misgivings dissolved almost immediately.
  • The difference in the two teams’ playing styles is interesting and will be especially noteworthy to basketball fans: The Eagles “raced up and down the floor in McLendon’s innovative fast-break style that emphasized attacking the basket. This was basketball the white players had never seen.” The Eagles won by forty-four points and gave Duke a glimpse of “basketball of the future.”
  • Randy DuBurke’s evocative, largely monochromatic artwork adeptly conveys the time period and mood as well as the excitement of the game.

School Library Journal

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 human kindness.—Ellen Norton, Naperville Public Library, Naperville, IL

Horn Book

Based closely on a 1996 New York Times article by Scott Ellsworth, this picture book tells the dramatic story of an illegal college basketball game planned and played in secret in Jim Crow-era North Carolina. On a Sunday morning in 1944, while most Durham residents, including the police, were in church, the white members of the Duke University Medical School basketball team (considered “the best in the state”) slipped into the gym at the North Carolina College of Negroes to play the Eagles, a close-to-undefeated black team coached by future Hall of Famer John McClendon. What happened when “basketball of the present” (Duke’s three-man weaves and set shots) met “basketball of the future” (the Eagles’ pressure defense and fast breaks) is suspenseful, dramatic, and telling: the Eagles beat Duke 88–44. Afterward, pushing the boundaries even further, the players evened up the teams for a friendly game of shirts and skins. Coy’s succinct narrative is well paced, compelling, and multilayered, focusing on the remarkable game but also placing it in societal and historical context. DuBurke’s illustrations can be static at times but nicely capture the story’s atmosphere, from the tension of the Duke players’ covert arrival to the basketball action to the post-game geniality and then back to tension (since all parties, including several newspaper reporters, had to pledge to keep the day’s events secret to protect themselves and Coach McClendon). A fascinating story, with appeal far beyond sports—and history fans; appended with an author’s note, timeline, and brief bibliography. martha v. parravano

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