Games of Deception: The True Story of the First U.S. Olympic Basketball Team at the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Germany by Andrew Maraniss

Games of Deception is a quality young adult nonfiction piece about basketball and the Berlin Games. Directed toward an audience of teens and young adults, the book covers the creation of the game, the formation of the Olympic team, the conflict over whether or not to boycott the games, and the Nazi propaganda machine during the games itself. Touching on many important topics connected to the team and the games, Maraniss writes an accessible but challenging book that will a great addition to any school library.

I really liked the details about Jesse Owen captivating performance, and how the author explained the difference between current college and professional players and the amateurs who formed the team. Maraniss also does a good job of setting the scene both in the US and internationally. The depression is raging all over the globe and with it Hitler sees an opportunity to gain control. And the Olympic game is a chance to showcase the ‘perfect society’ the regime has built.

Games of Deception features many pictures of the key players and places where the events take place, including the rain soaked tennis court where the gold medal game is played. Important to note is that the writing takes the time to look at the history through a 21st century lens. He notes the exclusion of Jewish athletes as well as African-American members of the Olympics teams. And also how the men and women were treated differently at the time. It might be hard for a young person to wrap his or her head around this rampant bigotry, but Maraniss provides examples and evidence to help a reader.

A well-written book about a little-known piece of sports history.

4 out of 5 stars

Thank you to Edelweiss, Philomel Books, and the author for an advanced copy for review.

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