Game Changer: John McLendon and the Secret Game by John Coy, illustrated by Randy DuBurke

Published by Carolrhoda 

Summary: In 1944, two college basketball teams met for a secret game. The men from Duke University Medical School knew they were playing a game, but had no idea until they arrived, that they were playing an African American team at the North Carolina College of Negroes.  Coach John McLendon had arranged the game, even though he knew he could face death if the local Ku Klux Klan got wind of his actions.  The game started slowly, but pretty soon McClendon’s team started to dominate.  The final score was 88-44, North Carolina College of Negroes.  The teams then mixed it up to make things more even, playing shirts versus skins.  Afterwards, the Duke team members visited the other team’s dorm and sat around talking basketball.  For years, no one ever knew about the game for fear of reprisals.  John McLendon went on to win three national titles at Tennessee State, and was the first African American coach inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. 32 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  A fascinating and powerful story about one man’s contributions toward ending racism and promoting greater understanding.  The illustrations have plenty of great basketball action and grow more colorful as the story unfolds.

Cons:  The less colorful illustrations on the first several pages, combined with the typewriter-like font, had an unappealing look.  The second half of the book was better visually.

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