Hoop Genius

How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball

  • Interest Level: Grade 2 - Grade 5
  • Reading Level: Grade 3

Taking over a rowdy gym class right before winter vacation is not something James Naismith wants to do at all.

The last two teachers of this class quit in frustration. The students—a bunch of energetic young men—are bored with all the regular games and activities. Naismith needs something new, exciting, and fast to keep the class happy—or someone’s going to get hurt. Saving this class is going to take a genius.

Discover the true story of how Naismith invented basketball in 1891 at a school in Springfield, Massachusetts.

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Interest Level Grade 2 - Grade 5
Reading Level Grade 3
Genre Picture Books
Category 5 Kinds of Nonfiction, 5KN: Narrative Nonfiction
Copyright 2013
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Carolrhoda Books ®
Language English
Number of Pages 32
Publication Date 2013-01-01
Reading Counts! Level 5.7
Text Type Narrative Nonfiction
BISACS JNF054020, JNF025200, JNF050000
Dewey 796.323'2
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Dimensions 9.25 x 11
Lexile 880
ATOS Reading Level 4.6
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 156779
Accelerated Reader® Points 0.5
Features Awards, Original artwork, Reviewed, Starred Reviews, Teaching Guides, and eSource

Author: John Coy

John Coy is the author of young adult novels, the 4 for 4 middle-grade series, and nonfiction and fiction picture books including Hoop Genius, Game Changer, Their Great Gift, Dads, and If We Were Gone. He has received numerous awards for his work including a Marion Vannett Ridgway Award, a Charlotte Zolotow Honor, a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year, and the Burr/Warzalla Award for Distinguished Achievement in Children's Literature. John lives by the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.

Illustrator: Joe Morse

Joe Morse is an award-winning illustrator and artist. His work has graced everything from billboards in England to coins in Canada. He directs the Illustration Degree program at Sheridan Institute outside of Toronto. Joe lives in Toronto with his wife, the illustrator/designer Lorraine Tuson, and their 2 children.

Lerner eSource™ offers free digital teaching and learning resources, including Common Core State Standards (CCSS) teaching guides. These guides, created by classroom teachers, offer short lessons and writing exercises that give students specific instruction and practice using Common Core skills and strategies. Lerner eSource also provides additional resources including online activities, downloadable/printable graphic organizers, and additional educational materials that would also support Common Core instruction. Download, share, pin, print, and save as many of these free resources as you like!

Hoop Genius

Taking over a rowdy gym class right before winter vacation is not something James Naismith wants to do at all. The last two teachers of this class quit in frustration. The students—a bunch of energetic young men—are bored with all the regular games and… View available downloads →


  • National Endowment for the Humanities Nonfiction Booklist for Young Readers, Winner, 2016
  • Louisiana Young Readers' Choice Honor Book, Commended, 2016
  • Illinois Monarch Award Nominee, Nominated, 2015
  • Volunteer State Book Award Nominee, Nominated, 2015
  • Virginia Readers' Choice Award Reading List Selection, Long-listed, 2015
  • Star Of The North Picture Book Award Nominee, Nominated, 2014
  • South Carolina Book Award, Winner, 2014
  • North Carolina Children's Book Award Nominee, Nominated, 2014
  • Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year, Winner, 2014
  • Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) Choices, Winner, 2014
  • Cream of the Crop for Children's and Young Adult Literature, Winner, 2013
  • Black Eyed Susan Book Award Nominee, Nominated, 2013
  • Booklist Top 10 Sports Books for Youth, Winner, 2013


Library Media Connection

“Naismith’s story offers an excellent way to reach reluctant readers when launching a research project or collaborating across disciplines.” —Library Media Connection

The New York Times Book Review

“There’s a bit of Otto Dix in Morse’s distinctive paintings, with their angular contours and somber, blue-tinted skin, which lends an incongruous, though not displeasing, coolness to the notably hot-blooded sport.” —The New York Times Book Review

School Library Journal

“Morse’s energetic illustrations add an old-fashioned charm to the narrative….This entertaining and informative story will delight young sports fans.” —School Library Journal

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“The fun here is in the contrast between Coy’s straightforward narration and the stylized mayhem of Morse’s cast of maroon-shirted, all-American-looking college guys.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

The Horn Book Magazine

“Coy understands the power of detail . . . and his tight focus on the game’s initial season is immediately engrossing. Spare, precise language reflects the game’s welcome sense of order as well as its athletic appeal. Morse’s kinetic paintings, at once dynamic and controlled, fill the spreads, capturing the game’s combination of power and finesse.”—starred, The Horn Book Magazine


“Well researched with material artifacts and primary sources, this classic story is boosted significantly by big, blocky, muscular illustrations in muted tones that effortlessly mix tongue-in-cheek whimsy with serious action. Anybody who plays the game or watches it ought to find this pretty engrossing.” —Booklist