Dragon Hoops (Coming March 2020)

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In his latest graphic novel, Dragon HoopsNew York Times bestselling author Gene Luen Yang turns the spotlight on his life, his family, and the high school where he teaches.

Gene understands stories―comic book stories, in particular. Big action. Bigger thrills. And the hero always wins.

But Gene doesn’t get sports. As a kid, his friends called him “Stick” and every basketball game he played ended in pain. He lost interest in basketball long ago, but at the high school where he now teaches, it's all anyone can talk about. The men’s varsity team, the Dragons, is having a phenomenal season that’s been decades in the making. Each victory brings them closer to their ultimate goal: the California State Championships.

Once Gene gets to know these young all-stars, he realizes that their story is just as thrilling as anything he’s seen on a comic book page. He knows he has to follow this epic to its end. What he doesn’t know yet is that this season is not only going to change the Dragons’s lives, but his own life as well.---from the publisher

448 pages                                              978-1626720794                        Ages 13 and up

Keywords:  basketball, competition, graphic nonfiction, Asian American author, family, diversity, diverse books, ethnicity, creative process, 13 year old, 14 year old, 15 year old, high school, equality, race, memoir

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This is best described as a graphic novel memoir of Mr. Yang's writing life combined with a history of the Bishop O'Dowd school basketball team. Unsure of what to write about next, Yang draws inspiration from the school where he teachers. While he didn't participate in basketball himself, he is drawn to the team, which does very well but has struggled to bring home a championship. The coach, Lou Richie, was a student at the school, so has deep ties to the community and the basketball program. He agrees to let Yang tag along with the team to get information for his new book. At the same time, Yang struggles with his work life balance, since teaching and working on his graphic novels are time consuming, giving him less time with his family. The book covers not only the Bishop O'Dowd Dragons' season in 2015 and the players involved in that, but also former players and games, Yang's growing understanding of what sports can mean to students, and basketball history from Naismith to current players. Interviews with people involved show that sometimes taking the first step (a theme repeated throughout the book) is the only way to accomplish great things.

Strengths: This is certainly a masterful piece of work that shows how sports teams have a deeper impact on participants than people who don't like sports can imagine. Yang, like many teachers and librarians, doesn't really care about sports himself, but through his work with the team (and some diligent research) finally understands the dramatic impact that sports can have. I particularly liked the stories of the characters (along with lots of history; I didn't know about Gandhi's treatment of the Sikhs!) who came from other cultures but ended up at a Catholic high school for the basketball. There is plenty of sports information for readers who like action on the court. Yang's illustration style is very pleasing and effective, and the cover is fabulous. Weaknesses: I'm not sure how much students will care about Yang's writing journey, although this will draw in teachers and librarians who don't read a lot about sports.

What I really think: I'll definitely buy a copy, but I have a feeling that students will probably skim over parts of this rather long (448 pages) book.

Recommended by: Karen Yingling, Library Media Specialist, Ohio USA

See more of her reviews: msyinglingreads.blogspot.com

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