Review of Dragon Hoops

Dragon Hoops
by Gene Luen Yang; illus. by the author; color by Lark Pien
High School    First Second/Roaring Brook    446 pp.
3/20    978-1-62672-079-4    $24.99

“I’m just not a sports kind of guy,” begins Yang in this comics-format offering that brilliantly combines journalism, memoir, and sports history. Yang, who taught math at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, California, during the events of the book, provides readers with an inside look at the school’s elite basketball team’s season as it attempted to win the California State Championship in 2015. Weaving the details of that team’s efforts with a primer on the history of basketball, Yang skillfully juggles the stories of multiple players and coaches as well as his own journey from basketball novice to avid fan. In the appended notes, Yang explains his art and narrative choices chapter-by-chapter with page and panel notations, from the sneakers and the hairstyles of the individual players to times when certain conversations happened differently than depicted. While the action on the court is absolutely transfixing (with page layouts often using trapezoid-shaped panels whose diagonal lines amp up the dynamism), the story shines just as brightly off the court when Yang’s focus shifts to his own dilemmas and profound insights regarding art and storytelling. Single-season reportage is a popular subgenre of sports writing in the adult publishing world (try In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle for a basketball classic), and here is a perfect entryway into this form for teen readers. A bibliography is also appended.

From the May/June 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Eric Carpenter
Eric Carpenter
Eric Carpenter is the school librarian at Fred A. Toomer Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia.

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