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Game Changer
Cover of Game Changer
Game Changer
John McLendon and the Secret Game
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When they piled into cars and drove through Durham, North Carolina, the members of the Duke University Medical School basketball team only knew that they were going somewhere to play basketball. They...
When they piled into cars and drove through Durham, North Carolina, the members of the Duke University Medical School basketball team only knew that they were going somewhere to play basketball. They...
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Description-

  • When they piled into cars and drove through Durham, North Carolina, the members of the Duke University Medical School basketball team only knew that they were going somewhere to play basketball. They didn't know whom they would play against. But when they came face to face with their opponents, they quickly realized this secret game was going to make history.

    Discover the true story of how in 1944, Coach John McLendon orchestrated a secret game between the best players from a white college and his team from the North Carolina College of Negroes. At a time of widespread segregation and rampant racism, this illegal gathering changed the sport of basketball forever.

About the Author-

  • John Coy is the author of the picture books Strong to the Hoop, Around the World, Hoop Genius, Game Changer, and Their Great Gift. He lives in Minneapolis and visits schools nationally and internationally.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from August 17, 2015
    In an account brimming with suspense and emotional tension, Coy (Hoop Genius) and DuBurke (Best Shot in the West) show how a game of college-level basketball one Sunday morning in 1944 helped provide a glimpse of the future of the game and of a segregated nation. The man behind the game was John McLendon, coach of the North Carolina College of Negroes’ Eagles, who masterminded the clandestine meet-up between his team and the all-white squad from Duke University Medical School, at a time when segregation laws prohibited play between black and white teams. Initial uneasiness—the athletes, “some of whom had never been this close to a person of a different color, were hesitant to touch or bump into one another”—gave way to a game in which the Eagles trounced Duke using a hard-driving fast-break style; a follow-up match saw the teams blending their ranks. DuBurke’s shadowy images in pencil and paint have the feeling of long-buried photos snapped in secret, while Coy skillfully highlights both the energy and importance of the game and the dangerous social climate in which it was played. Ages 7–11.

  • School Library Journal

    August 1, 2015

    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.-Ellen Norton, Naperville Public Library, Naperville, IL

    Copyright 2015 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    July 15, 2015
    A picture-book account of a historic, secret basketball matchup in the Jim Crow South. Amid widespread segregation and rampant racism in 1944 Durham, North Carolina, black players and white players came together to play ball. The legendary African-American coach John McLendon, who learned the game from its founder, James Naismith, is depicted in this true story as a man with foresight and the courage to step beyond the bounds of the color line for friendly competition. An undercover, illegitimate contest he helped to arrange between the Duke University Medical School and the North Carolina College of Negroes demonstrated that blacks and whites could play together some 22 years before Texas Western would win the national championship with an all-black starting five. DuBurke's arresting illustrations play up the basketball action and the emerging camaraderie that conjured the possibility of defeating Jim Crow. In its focus on the so-called Secret Game, however, and its tailpiece that assures readers that "today, people don't think twice about players of different skin colors competing with one another," the story is a bit kumbayah. Yes, the NCAA and NBA are integrated, but the Donald Sterlings of the world show there is still work to be done. Though necessarily brief and lacking in nuance, the story is nevertheless a charming read for young basketball fans. (author's note, timeline, bibliography) (Informational picture book. 7-11)

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from September 1, 2015
    Grades 2-4 *Starred Review* This book offers a slice of history and an inspiring portrait in courage by detailing one basketball game that white and African American teams dared play in defiance of segregation. The game took place in 1944 Durham, North Carolina, a time when the Ku Klux Klan deemed that race mixing was punishable by death. Coach John McLendon of the North Carolina College of Negroes believed basketball could change people's prejudices and invited players from the Duke University Medical School, an all-white team, to play a secret game in his college's gym. The game shows how the white players were blown away by the new, fast-break style of McLendon's players, losing 44 to 88. The players then mixed it up in a shirts and skins game, with whites and African Americans on both teams. In lively detail, Coy describes the game that advanced race relations in sports, reminding readers that this took place three years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. DuBurke's use of cyan and sepia tones within his photolike illustrations perfectly conveys the look of the 1940s and the energy of the game itself. Information on Coach McLendon and a time line of integration in sports concludes this exciting account of a landmark game played ahead of its time.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2015, American Library Association.)

  • 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 integrated 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."—School Library Journal

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