Have you got a tween who loves basketball and maybe's read a few fantasy stories, but most of them don't hold their attention for too long because...well, the stories don't involve an orange ball? Well, then, this read's for them!
I wish I had found this series when my son, who's now 16 and waaay taller than me, was little. He was bitten by the basketball bug in the third grade and this would have been a perfect read! There were no basketball teams this year, due to COVID, but next year he'll try out again for his high school team. ;-)
You can tell a lot of care went into crafting these stories. It begins with the cover. A layer of luxurious red velvet is laid over the cover and a gold embossed basketball glints in the light.
The books, five in all, are told from the points of view of different players on the West Bottom Badgers team: Rain (the shooter), Twig (the tall man), Cash (the big man), and two brothers, Peño (point guard) and Lab.
The Badgers are the worst team in the youth league, set in a fantasy world, a dystopia called Dren. The boys are all on the team for different reasons, but their record's so bad because they each play an "individual" game -- whether consciously or unconsciously. Some do it because they think it's expected (Rain), others because they're afraid of being hurt by teammates (Twig), others because they're actually afraid of hurting someone (Cash), and so on. Problem is, they can't see what they're doing, or why it makes the team so terrible.
Then Professor Rolabi Wizenard walks into the Fairwood Community Center's gym, and they're in for the training camp of their lives. Whether it's shooting from a crumbling plateau, defending against a tiger, storming (or defending) a castle in knight's armor, or getting trapped in the gym as the walls close in on them (Star Wars garbage chute scene nod), their ability to come together as a team will determine if they survive, much less make it onto the team and get to play basketball games and achieve their dreams.
There are so many great morsels in these books and I love that they focus not on the games, but on training camp and each boy's internal struggle, and how that manifests on the court.
An awesome fantasy basketball read!
As a teacher, there's a lot you could do this this book to examine POV -- point of view.
The publisher, Granity Studios, offers a free 7-page Teaching Guide. Unlike other free book guides, you'll have to sign up with your email address to download it, but it came in a few seconds as a pdf file.
I won't post it here, as it's only offered behind the email sign-up wall, but it's a very good teaching guide. The before/during/after reading activities focus on the lessons learned by each individual character; there are 5 after reading discussion questions; an after reading activity that has students assume the roles they would on a basketball team -- defender, point guard, etc. -- and evaluate the character's POV from the assigned role POV and compare / contrast how they differ; evaluate 10 quotes from IRL coaches; a building activity involving spaghetti, jubjubes and masking tape; and even working in pairs on a basketball court to shoot blindfolded! It looks like so much fun to teach!
My son read this autobiography after Bryant was killed in 2020 in a January helicopter crash. Bryant, of course, was best known for winning five NBA championships and the 2008 MVP Award with the Los Angeles Lakers.
This is a great high-interest, non-fiction read for the basketball readers in your life. It's appropriate for all ages, even those the same age or just a bit older than the audience for his Wizenard series. It's super-focused on the game of basketball -- how he approached practice, preparation, drills, plays, and the profession of being an NBA player.
It's not for everyone -- you gotta really know basketball to understand all he's talking about. But for the motivated basketball player in your home or classroom, it's an awesome resource and a great high-interest read.