Required Reading for Wrestlers
by Tom Burns
It’s easy to understand why kids like professional wrestling so much. It’s got heroes battling villains, athleticism mixed with theatricality, and grown-ups hitting each other with folding chairs. It’s the whole package (as far as kids are concerned). If your child is a huge WWE fan, or just enjoys flying off the top turnbuckle with wild abandon, here are some fantastic books about wrestling for kids of all ages.
Niño Wrestles the World
This hysterical picture book is a love letter to lucha libre — the masked Mexican wrestling tradition. A young boy named Niño acts out epic wrestling bouts with his toys, wearing nothing but his underwear and a red luchador mask. In his imagination, he’s fighting baddies like The Weeping Woman, The Mummy of Guanajuato, and El Chamuco. Morales’s energetic wordplay and over-the-top sound effects really bring Niño’s matches to life.
This fun beginning picture book from the Caldecott Medal-winning David Wisniewski is a cross between a comic book and a Japanese monster movie, all about an unassuming mouse named Yama who puts on a sumo-wrestling robot suit to battle evil cats. It’s visually gorgeous and has a great time casting a sumo wrestler as a superhero, which should delight young readers.
While dinosaurs wrestling might sound a little silly, Wheeler and Gott definitely know their sport and use their high-concept premise to introduce kids to six different kinds of popular wrestling — sumo, folk style, lucha libre, freestyle, Greco-Roman, and professional tag team. While your kids are geeking out over match-ups like Stegosaurus vs. Tyrannosaurus Rex, this rhyming picture book actually sneaks in a fair bit of factual info about their favorite sport.
Growing Reader (6–8):
Stink and the Ultimate Thumb-Wrestling Smackdown
This chapter book spin-off of the popular Judy Moody series revolves around Judy’s little brother Stink, who, in this title, discovers that he’s failing Phys Ed. Desperate to find a sport that he’s good at, Stink stumbles onto the weird world of world-class thumb-wrestling and adopts an alter ego (“Shark Hammersmash”) who’s determined to become a thumb-wrestling star.
There's a Girl in My Hammerlock
Spinelli, best known as the Newbery-winning author of Maniac Magee, tackles gender roles and competitive wrestling in this compelling middle school novel. The narrator of the story, eighth-grader Maisie Potter, decides to try out for her school’s wrestling team, which creates a furor in her hometown and forces her to struggle against sexism, while she fights to excel in her newly adopted sport.
If your kid loves professional wrestling, this comprehensive look back at the first fifty years of the WWE should be right up their alley. This encyclopedic compendium of wrestling history covers major events, pivotal figures, and all the trials, tribulations, and spin-offs that the sport has faced over the years. If you weren’t sure how to explain “Hulkamania” to your kid, this book can help.
Andre the Giant: Life and Legend
This young adult graphic novel is a breathtaking way to introduce tweens and teens to one of the most compelling and popular figures in the history of professional wrestling: Andre the Giant. Brown does a remarkable job of capturing the larger-than-life appeal of Andre Roussimoff, the enormous man whose love of the spotlight carried him to fame in the WWE (and "The Princess Bride") before his early death at the age of 47.