Wat Takes His Shot

By School Library Journal

In a multilayered picture book that, like the hero at its center, offers so much strength, personality, and invaluable life lessons in a very dense package, Kim brings young readers biography, sports story, intergenerational conflict, U.S. and world history, and racism battled on a basketball court. Wataru Misaka (1923–2019) had a word he shared with his dad: gambatte, which to them meant “do your best.” Misaka loved playing basketball with members of his community. They created their own basketball league because they were Japanese American and were not allowed to join a league that was for “whites only.” Misaka joined his high school basketball team as a junior and led his team to winning their first state championship. His father was so proud of him. Sadly, his father died when he was 15. His mother wanted to return to Japan because she had no money. Misaka went to school, played basketball, and got a job to help his mother support their family and stay in the U.S. He also saw friends and family incarcerated as enemies of America and went to Hiroshima a few months after the bomb was dropped to interview survivors. Despite these heavy events, Kim keeps the narration continuously breezy. Misaka plays basketball for his college team where despite the animosity of white spectators, and though smaller than his teammates, he led them to victory. He went on to become the first non-white man to play for the BBA, the pre-cursor to the NBA. This is an important and impressive story told with art that is almost graphic-novel style. This offsets the often long paragraphs, which necessarily cover the complicated highs and lows of Misaka’s life.

VERDICT Readers of all ages, especially those who love basketball, will rejoice over “Wat’s” triumphs.