Friday, November 09, 2018

No Slam Dunk

Lupica, Mike. No Slam Dunk
November 6th 2018 by Philomel Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Wes loves basketball-- practicing to be the best takes his mind off that fact that while his father did come back from fighting in Afghanistan as promised, he came back wounded, uncommunicative, and increasing involved in drink. Wes' mother, a high school librarian, is very supportive of Wes in every aspect of his complicated life, which is good to see. He also has a counselor, Mr. Correa, who checks in with him and occasionally plays some hoops. When one of the really good players on his team, "Dinero", starts to focus on his own game at the expense of his teammates, Wes tries to work with him. Dinero's father thinks his son can make it to the NBA, so is angry at the coach when his son is benched for grandstanding or not giving his teammates enough opportunity to play. Since Wes is struggling with his father's erratic behavior, it's hard for him to also deal with trouble on his team. Luckily, other teammates, the coach, and his mother help him work through his various problems. After his father has a crisis and deeply embarrasses Wes during a game, things start to change for the better.
Strengths: Lupica has an excellent formula for alternating sad stuff about Wes' father with descriptions of basketball games, practice, or playground scrimmages. This makes the book a lot easier to get through. I really liked how Wes had a good support network, and it made him be able to miss his father but also be somewhat sympathetic. As a coach, I see dysfunctional parents and how they affect students all the time. I had a father come to a meet, realize his runner wouldn't be doing anything for an hour, and then leave, loudly proclaiming "I don't have time for this sh**." It happens, and this is the constructive sort of sad that can be helpful for students to read.
Weaknesses: Not really a huge weakness, but Lupica usually has some really great female friends or teammates of the main characters, but I missed that in No Slam Dunk.
What I really think: I know there are people who are not fans of Lupica or of promoting white male writers, but if we are supporting young readers, we have to think about what they like to read. Interestingly, the kidlit community is all about giving children as many graphic novels as they would like to read, to the exclusion of all else if necessary. I find that far more readers only want sports books, but many teachers and librarians claim quite proudly that they "don't read sports books". I have some problems with this. When I started this blog in 2006, I had a focus on "books for boys", but had to drop that focus because people (mainly authors, interestingly), were very rude about it.

Yes, I have Hena Khan's basketball series, as well as Amar'e Stoudemire's and the Barber brothers'. When there are sports books written by culturally diverse authors, I will buy those as well. But if we are trying to get books to ALL readers, we can't ignore those who prefer sports books just because a disproportionate number of the books are written by white males.

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