Dragon Hoops

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Dragon Hoops Book Poster Image
Cartoonist tracks winning season in riveting graphic novel.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Based on actual events. Chronicles a high school basketball team's quest for state championship. Also provides a history of the game, offers an opportunity to discuss the role of athletics in education.

Positive Messages

It takes a diverse lineup of players to achieve the excellence that a winning season requires. No matter their backgrounds, players must come together and work as a team.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Coach Ricci works to keep his players focused on both their game and their education. Gene Yang pushes himself into unfamiliar territory when he decides to chronicle the Dragons' season as a graphic novel.


A small amount of on-court aggression, plus a fistfight in the stands. A former coach was accused of molesting a player many years ago, but the case was never proven.


A few instances of strong language, with most letters blacked out: one or two "f--k" and a "hell" or "damn."


Each player wears a certain style of Nike shoes.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dragon Hoops is a nonfiction graphic novel that chronicles a California high school basketball team's championship season. Written and illustrated by former U.S. Ambassador for Young People's Literature Gene Luen Yang (Secret Coders, American Born Chinese), it won a 2021 Michael J. Printz Honor for young adult literature. The comic spotlights a racially diverse team of players at the school where Yang used to be a teacher. Violence includes some on-court aggression and a fistfight in the stands. Strong language is rare: one or two uses of "f--k" (with letters blacked out) and a "hell" or "damn." It also has some infrequent references to sex.

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What's the story?

At the start of DRAGON HOOPS, computer science teacher Gene Yang realizes he knows very little about the people in the physical education department. Because his students are excited about the upcoming basketball season, Yang commits to following the Dragons all the way to the state championships and chronicling their efforts in comics. Along the way, Yang learns about the history of the game, the diverse lives of the players, and the meaning of teamwork.

Is it any good?

Nonfiction sports stories are fairly unusual in comics, but this epic tale of sportsmanship shows that the medium is perfectly suited to the subject. In Dragon Hoops, cartoonist Gene Yang pulls out all the stops to celebrate the Bishop O'Dowd High School basketball team, mixing reportage and history to captivating effect. He captures the energy on the court and delves into the psychology of the team's players. Sure to please sports fans, the book also has plenty of relevance for those who don't follow the games. Dragon Hoops is a winner all around!

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Dragon Hoops emphasizes the benefits of athletics in education. Why do schools have sports teams? How do students benefit from them?

  • What makes a "winner"? What character traits are necessary to excel in a sport or creative endeavor? 

  • Why do people regret missed opportunities? How can you stay open to once-in-a-lifetime opportunities?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love graphic novels and sports

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