One of the newer comedies this year is Fresh Off the Boat, a show that follows the Huang family as they move from Washington, D.C., to Florida. The oldest son, Eddie, is a typical middle school student. He likes hip-hop and basketball and is not that interested in school, much to the chagrin of his parents. This show is set in the 1990s, but if Eddie were a middle school student in 2015, these are the books he might enjoy:
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
This book is written in free verse, so it might take some convincing to get Eddie to read it, but I believe he would enjoy both the basketball theme and the rhythm and beat of the words in this story. Eddie would also identify with Josh and his struggle to live up to his family’s expectations.
The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang
I haven’t seen many episodes where Eddie reads, but I’m convinced he’s a comic book fan, or would be if he tried them. The Shadow Hero is a great match for Eddie since the main character also struggles with his Asian identity. Even though Eddie sounds like an average American tween, people often make judgments about him based on his race, so an Asian superhero may get him interested in reading.
The Slam Dunk series by Takehiko Inoue
Manga series are very popular with tweens and teens, and I enjoy recommending a series that already has a great lineup of books so that readers don’t have to wait for the next book to be published. The basketball theme of this series would resonate with Eddie.
Eddie would identify with Junior’s need to forge his own path instead of living up to his parents’ expectations, and he would likely understand some of the cultural struggles as well and the complications which arise when a person tries to embrace more than one identity. Eddie would also love the fact that this book has been banned or challenged in multiple locations; the idea of reading something “forbidden” would definitely appeal to him.
San Lee’s family has moved more times than he can count. He always tries on a new identity in each location, and his choice this time is to embrace his Asian heritage and pretend he’s a Buddhist. This becomes complicated – and hilarious – as his classmates eventually see through his ruse. Eddie would be amused by San’s antics and would understand how San could easily embrace an identity that many would easily pin on him anyway.
Swagger by Carl Deuker
This book may be a bit beyond Eddie’s level at the moment, but I would definitely want to introduce him to Carl Deuker’s sports fiction, especially the basketball stories. Swagger follows two high school basketball players who have to deal with an abusive coach and difficult decisions.
Boy 21 by Matthew Quick
Two boys with very different backgrounds meet on the basketball court where they both have worn the number 21. Both feel like outsiders, and they end up needing each other more than they had imagined. Eddie would enjoy the basketball theme in this story and may identify with the feeling of being an outsider.
Jay-Z: Hip Hop Icon by Jessica Gunderson
Hip hop and graphic novels combined into one beautiful novel. Eddie would love to read about Jay-Z and would probably want to try some of his music, so I could introduce him to a book and an artist at the same time.
Are there any books that I missed that you would recommend to a middle school student who is a fan of hip-hop and basketball?