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Dragon Hoops

First Second. Mar. 2020. 448p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781626720794.
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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.

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