Jen Bryant Books ;
Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball
written by Jen Bryant
illustrated by Frank Morrison
Abrams Books for Young Readers, October 6, 2020
ISBN 978-1-4197-4108-1, hardcover $18.99
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-64700-161-2
EAN 9781419741081
Hear Hamilton musical actor Colby Lewis read Above the Rim.
(mins 5-24)
Purchase a signed copy.
Video interview with Jen on "Jen's Process," with Biography Clearinghouse. Also available as a transcript.
Watch Frank share stories about the illustrations.
MN Public Radio on Above the Rim and current athlete activism.
Watch this SLAM DUNK review by Colby Sharp.
Listen to Jen & Frank on RISE: Champions of Change podcast,
discussing Above the Rim’s connections to today’s athlete activism.
Teaching Ideas from Biography Clearinghouse
Above the Rim is a poetic, exquisitely illustrated telling of the life of an underrecognized athlete and a celebration of standing up for what is right.
Hall-of-famer Elgin Baylor was one of basketball’s all-time-greatest players—an innovative athlete, team player, and quiet force for change. One of the first professional African-American players, he inspired others on and off the court. But when traveling for away games, many hotels and restaurants turned Elgin away because he was black. One night, Elgin had enough and staged a one-man protest that captured the attention of the press, the public, and the NBA.
Honors and Recognition
African-American Children’s Book Project's Best of 2020
ALA Notable Book for Younger Readers 2021
Booklist Editors' Choice List 2020
Booklist, starred review
CCBC 2021 Choices List
Chicago Public Library Best Informational Books For Younger Readers 2020
The Horn Book, starred review
Illinois Bluestem Award Nominee 2023
Junior Library Guild selection
NCTE Orbis Pictus Award 2021
New Mexico Land of Enchantment Student Choice Book Award 2023
New York Public Library Best Kids Books 2020
School Library Journal, starred review
Texas Topaz Non Fiction List 2022, Unanimous Pick
Vermont Red Clover Book Award nominee 2021-22
From the author: Elgin Baylor may not be a name that is familiar to young people today. But it should be. It’s my hope that this book will help more kids and adults know the story of this under-recognized athlete who pioneered basketball’s “above the rim” style of play and inspired future NBA stars like Dr. J, Michael Jordan and LeBron James. In addition to his athletic artistry, Baylor also chose to “speak out by sitting out” of an NBA game in West Virginia in the league’s early days. This quiet but effective act caught the attention of the press and the NBA Commissioner, and resulted in a change of rules for every NBA team.
"Elgin Baylor, Most Underrated Player in NBA History," from the Wilt Chamberlain Archive, YouTube, an excerpt of the first five minutes
Watch artist Frank Morrison share "Beyond the Book" insights
Visit illustrator Frank Morrison’s website
Read Elgin Baylor’s lifetime stats from the NBA Hall of Fame
Read Alyson Beecher's recommendation on Kid Lit Frenzy
Read Elizabeth Bird’s interview for A Fuse #8 Production, SLJ blog
Teaching Ideas from Biography Clearinghouse
The text mentions milestones of the civil rights movement within the story and celebrates Baylor’s principled stand against segregation as well as his notable basketball skills. Morrison’s captivating oil paintings feature dramatic compositions, rich colors, and the artist’s distinctive, elongated figures. Equally impressive is his ability to portray the emotional depths of individuals, from small-minded segregationists to heroes of the civil rights movement. Strong storytelling and riveting artwork make this a memorable picture book. (Booklist, starred review)
Things can change in time.” For NBA great Elgin Baylor, named for his father’s favorite wristwatch, the segregated parks, playgrounds, schools, and colleges of his Washington, D.C., home would eventually be open to all. But in 1945, such was not the case. When Elgin was a teen, he had a neighborhood court to play on, but, for a long time, no basketball. His skill, though, always seemed to be there (“it’s spontaneous”), and at his segregated high school he was a star. From there he headed west to play college basketball, and in 1958 joined the Minneapolis Lakers in the NBA and was voted Rookie of the Year. He faced racism and discrimination in hotels and restaurants, and famously sat out an important game—leading to an antidiscrimination rule change by the NBA. With lively verse and elegant oil paintings, Bryant and Morrison masterfully place Baylor’s midair “slashing, crashing, gliding” basketball heroics in the context of his times, with Rosa Parks’s protest in Alabama (including a luminous portrait by Morrison); Black students integrating a school in Arkansas; and lunch counter sit-ins in Kansas. In light of current protests in sports—Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling, the NBA and WNBA playoff boycotts, and NASCAR drivers supporting Bubba Wallace’s stand against racism—time on Mr. Baylor’s Elgin watch moves slowly indeed. Back matter includes an informative author’s note, a bibliography, and a timeline. (The Horn Book, starred review)
Bryant and Morrison team up to honor 11-time NBA All-Star and Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor (b. 1934). This captivating account chronicles Baylor’s rise to basketball stardom in spite of the obstacles he faced in the segregated cities of his childhood and throughout his career. The poetic narrative captures Baylor’s unique style of play in the early days of the NBA: “The way he played was so different that people stopped what they were doing and watched.” This observation not only reflects those who witnessed Baylor’s seemingly effortless and gravity-defying moves on the court, but it is used to describe those who stopped to watch the historic acts of courage of Rosa Parks and Ruby Bridges. Neither Baylor’s influence nor Bryant’s story is limited to the world of basketball. After Baylor staged his own peaceful protest against segregation during an NBA game in 1959, the league took its first steps toward recognizing and rectifying the discrimination that Black players faced as they traveled the country. Morrison’s vibrant oil paintings fill the pages with personality, energy, and movement. His signature elongated figures are perfectly suited to depict the 6’5” baller. An author’s note, suggested reading, notes, and an extensive time line enhance the value of this book. VERDICT This inspirational and timely portrait of a lesser-known hero of the sports world and the civil rights movement belongs in every school library. (School Library Journal, starred review.)
A new generation of fans will be introduced to the legendary basketball player Elgin Baylor. Elgin Baylor experienced many barriers on his path to NBA success. He grew up in World War II–era Washington, D.C., in a time of segregated playgrounds and a general lack of access to public basketball equipment. Even when he became a prominent player for his all-Black high school’s basketball team, local colleges would not allow him admission because they “wanted ‘whites only.’ ” Yet Baylor persevered to become a professional basketball player during the height of the civil rights movement, snapshots of which are interleaved with the primary narrative: the Montgomery bus boycott, the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, a sit-in at a Wichita lunch counter. With Baylor’s story, Bryant and Morrison demonstrate that NBA players have a long history of speaking (or, in Baylor’s case, sitting) out against injustices in society. Bryant’s spare, emphatic text relates how Baylor’s Minneapolis Lakers were affected by Jim Crow and how his protest led to a change in NBA policy. Morrison’s vibrant paintings emphasize Baylor’s lithe athleticism, elongated arms and legs extending balletically. An author’s note contextualizes Baylor’s story, including the perhaps-surprising information that in his day, basketball was not nearly as popular as it is today. A timely read about an NBA player who spoke out against Jim Crow injustice. (further reading, notes, timeline) (Picture book/biography. ages 5-10) (Kirkus Reviews)
Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball
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