Power Forward ((Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream series, Book 1)

Power Forward  ((Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream series, Book 1)
Zayd LOVES basketball and isn't thrilled about being on a development team instead of the "gold" team like his best friend Adam. He could be a lot better if his parents didn't make him practice violin so much. Of course, it doesn't help that he is scrawny, mainly because his mother insists on healthy food, which doesn't always sit well with his sensitive system. When he listens to some other basketball players and decides to practice his hoop skills before school in the morning, he neglects to tell his mother that he is skipping orchestra practice. When she finds out, she is not pleased, and his parents ground him... from basketball. Zayd needs to find a way to explain his actions and his dreams to his parents in a way that they will understand. Luckily, he has supportive family members like his grandmother and uncle who help him reconcile his dreams with his parents' wishes.

Strengths: To me, this is what #WeNeedDiverseBooks is all about. Realistic stories about children from particular backgrounds whose families and culture inform their everyday actions but don't necessarily define them. Sure, Zayd wants to be the first Pakistani-American NBA star, but he mainly wants to just play basketball with his friends. I especially appreciated that Zayd was underweight. There are so many middle schoolers, especially boys, who struggle with athletics because they haven't caught up with other children their own age in growth yet. I've known boys like Zayd who have sensitive digestive systems, or perhaps a touch of anxiety, who actually do a lot better eating more potato chips than kale, yet I've not met one of these picky eaters in a middle grade book. Brilliant, brilliant stuff! I hope that adults who are loathe to pick up sports books will discover that this mix of culture, personal problems, and sports is a slam dunk.

Weaknesses: I really wish that Zayd had been a 7th grader, since readers this age tend to "read up". Still, with sports books, this tends not to be as much of a problem. What I really think: So excited to order this and have it on the shelves when school starts!

Recommended by:  Karen Yingling, Library Media Specialist, Ohio USA
See more of her reviews:   msyinglingreads.blogspot.com
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From the critically acclaimed author of Amina’s Voice comes the first book in an exciting new middle grade series about a fourth-grader with big dreams of basketball stardom.

Fourth grader Zayd Saleem has some serious hoop dreams. He’s not just going to be a professional basketball player. He’s going to be a star. A legend. The first Pakistani-American kid to make it to the NBA. He knows this deep in his soul. It’s his destiny. There are only a few small things in his way.

For starters, Zayd’s only on the D-team. (D stands for developmental, but to Zayd it’s always felt like a bad grade or something.) Not to mention, he’s a bit on the scrawny side, even for the fourth grade team. But his best friend Adam is on the Gold Team, and it’s Zayd’s dream for the two of them to play together.

His mom and dad don’t get it. They want him to practice his violin way more than his jump shot. When he gets caught blowing off his violin lessons to practice, Zayd’s parents lay down the ultimate punishment: he has to hang up his high tops and isn’t allowed to play basketball anymore.

As tryouts for the Gold Team approach, Zayd has to find the courage to stand up for himself and chase his dream.---from the publisher

144 pages            978-1534411999      Ages 8-12

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