Engaging, entertaining and full of insight about race and ethnicity…On one level, [Dragon Hoops] is like a fast-paced documentary, intercutting the Dragons' thrilling wins and crushing losses with basketball's own turbulent history, from the invention of the game…to the often controversial, politically charged careers of today's N.B.A. stars. On another level, it's autobiography…My favorite visual elements in the book are the close-ups of feet. Are they taking a step forward into greatness, or taking a step back? Readers will be glad Gene Luen Yang stood on his toes and leapt toward the rafters.
Gene understands storiescomic 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.
As a comic book enthusiast and graphic novelist, Printz Medalist Yang has always been more partial to superheroes than to sports. But in 2014, as a teacher at a Catholic high school in Oakland, Calif., Yang is drawn to a story about the school’s basketball team—the Dragons. Rumor has it that under the current coach, a former player at the school, this year’s team will surely grab the state championship. Shadowing the group for an entire season, Yang interviews players and coaches to uncover the talented students’ stories and the program’s allegedly shadowed past. Using documentary-style storytelling, Yang serves as both narrator and a character, alternating player backstories and the Dragons’ 2014 season with interstitials about the sport’s beginnings and early tensions, historical and present-day discrimination (Black Lives Matter, Sikh persecution following the partition of India), and Yang’s own work-life balance. Using a candid narrative and signature illustrations that effectively and dynamically bring the fast-paced games to life, Yang has crafted a triumphant, telescopic graphic memoir that explores the effects of legacy and the power of taking a single first step, no matter the outcome. Ages 14–up. (Mar.)■
Listed as a New York Times, Washington Post, Amazon, Forbes, School Library Journal, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly 2020 book of the year.
"Full of insight about race and ethnicity, this graphic novel intercuts the thrilling wins and crushing defeats of one high school team with basketball’s own turbulent history." New York Times, from "The 25 Best Children’s Books of 2020"
"Self-confessed nerd Yang would be the first to say it was unlikely that he’d do a graphic novel about sports, but his latest YA opus might be the best comic ever done on the subject, as he follows the fortunes of his high school basketball team in their quest for a state championship." Forbes, from "The Best Graphic Novels Of 2020"
"Dragon Hoops winningly chronicles the postseason hopes of the basketball team at the Oakland high school where [Gene Luen Yang] taught for 17 years."Washington Post
"Yang’s cartooning skills have never been sharper... Dragon Hoops has a long life ahead of it in libraries and classrooms, bridging comics and sports in a story that offers plenty of opportunities for meaningful discussion."AV Club
"At more than 400 full-color pages, Dragon Hoops is an impressive feat of illustrated journalism. Above all else, Yang considers himself a storyteller, and Dragon Hoops affords him the opportunity to devise a narrative that is both personal in its approach and universal in its presentation."Oakland Magazine
"While [Dragon Hoops] traverses and weaves together different story lines throughout the seasonYang’s own life; the lives of players on the team; the various contexts and trajectories of basketball’s development as a sport the call to courage spills into every narrative."San Francisco Chronicle
"Using a candid narrative and signature illustrations that effectively and dynamically bring the fast-paced games to life, Yang has crafted a triumphant, telescopic graphic memoir that explores the effects of legacy and the power of taking a single first step, no matter the outcome." Publisher's Weekly, starred review and a Publisher's Weekly Best Book of 2020
"Another standout showing from Yang, this title will have even sports haters on their feet cheering." School Library Journal, starred review and a School Library Journal Best Graphic Novel of 2020
"[Dragon Hoops] is a perfect entryway into this form [single-season reportage] for teen readers."Horn Book, starred review
"Yang is an extraordinary cartoonist...through recurring visual motifs that connect a champion basketball player to a self-questioning artist to a Russian immigrant with a new idea, he illuminates the risks that every one of us must take and has, once again, produced a work of resounding humanity." Booklist, starred review
"On-court action is impeccably paced in swift cuts...expect a warm reception from both the sports fiction crowd and open-minded nerds willing to explore what all the seasonal fuss is all about. " The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review
"The full-color illustrations are varied in layout, effectively conveying intense emotion and heart-stopping action on the court...A winner." Kirkus
Gr 8 Up—A year after publishing his well-received Boxers and Saints, graphic novelist and math teacher Yang was beset by writer's block. But his curiosity was piqued by the Dragons, his school's men's varsity basketball team. Over the years, they had come close to winning a state championship, and 2015, the rumor mill whispered, was their year. Though a self-proclaimed nerd, Yang overcame his aversion to sports and decided to follow alumnus Coach Lou and a diverse squad of young men on their quest for the ultimate accolade. As the author juggled raising a family, teaching, and writing, the Dragons struggled to take home the championship—an effort generations in the making. The frenetic action of basketball provides ideal fodder for graphic storytelling, and Yang's visual trademarks—blade-sharp linework and squeaky-clean paneling—are in full force. His discourse on transforming human beings into cartoons that aren't caricatures is especially delightful. The narrative combines the blood-sweat-and-tears drama of a sports story with elements of gonzo journalism, narrative nonfiction, and action comics, juxtaposing play-by-play accounts of games with explorations of players' lives and the broader history of the sport. As Yang taps into subjects as varied as assimilation and discrimination in America, internecine violence in India, and China's century-long quest for athletic recognition, readers learn how this low-cost, indoor game leveled racial, gender, and international boundaries to attain global prominence. VERDICT Another standout showing from Yang, this title will have even sports haters on their feet cheering.—Steven Thompson, Bound Brook Memorial Public Library, NJ
The trials of a high school basketball team trying to clinch the state title and the graphic novelist chronicling them.
The Dragons, Bishop O'Dowd High School's basketball team, have a promising lineup of players united by the same goal. Backed by Coach Lou Richie, an alumnus himself, this could be the season the Oakland, California, private Catholic school breaks their record. While Yang (Team Avatar Tales, 2019, etc.), a math teacher and former National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, is not particularly sporty, he is intrigued by the potential of this story and decides to focus his next graphic novel on the team's ninth bid for the state championship. Yang seamlessly blends a portrait of the Dragons with the international history of basketball while also tying in his own career arc as a graphic novelist as he tries to balance family, teaching, and comics. Some panels directly address the creative process, such as those depicting an interaction between Yang and a Punjabi student regarding the way small visual details cue ethnicity in different ways. This creative combination of memoir and reportage elicits questions of storytelling, memory, and creative liberty as well as addressing issues of equity and race. The full-color illustrations are varied in layout, effectively conveying intense emotion and heart-stopping action on the court. Yang is Chinese American, Richie is black, and there is significant diversity among the team members.
A winner. (notes, bibliography) (Graphic nonfiction. 13-18)