Little Shaq

Book review by
Kyle Jackson, Common Sense Media
Little Shaq Book Poster Image
Engaging early reader shows teamwork via community garden.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

A great choice for very young readers hungry for a story longer than a picture book -- but not too long. Includes basic gardening facts, such as that plants need water. Kids will also encounter vegetable vocabulary, such as "eggplant" and "zucchini."

Positive Messages

Barry and Little Shaq must work together to accomplish their goals, learning how to include each other and be responsible gardeners. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The boys are bright and determined, using their creativity to start a humble neighborhood gardening business. Little Shaq can be insensitive with his bragging, making Barry upset. The boys have to work on controlling their tempers and their competitive attitudes.  

Violence & Scariness

Barry gets so mad at his failure in a video game that he throws his controller, breaking the console and the game.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that basketball great Shaquille O'Neal's Little Shaq -- the first in a series of beginning chapter books -- is a positive and engaging illustrated story of friendship, teamwork, and the birth of a community garden. The vocabulary is basic without being boring, making it a solid choice for read-aloud or for early readers, especially sports fans. Its multiethnic cast makes it a fine option for families looking for books with diverse characters.

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What's the story?

Written by NBA legend and media personality Shaquille O'Neal, LITTLE SHAQ tells the story of two competitive cousins who set aside their rivalry to accomplish common goals. After a heated basketball video game erupts into a temper tantrum that results in a broken disc, Little Shaq and Barry have to get creative to earn the money needed to replace it. The two realize something they have in common: They're both green thumbs who love to water plants. Starting an entrepreneurial venture, "O'Neals' Gardening," the boys work around the neighborhood, watering plants, picking up skills from master gardeners, and getting into shenanigans. Once they've earned more than enough money to buy back the game, they decide to use the remainder to spearhead the creation of a community garden on a plot of unused land, bringing together families and friends to create something everyone can enjoy. 

Is it any good?

Though it's not the sports-heavy book some might expect from an ex-NBA star, the lessons about cooperation and collaboration ring true coming from an iconic champion such as Shaq. It's refreshing to see environmental awareness and community engagement highlighted by someone known for athletic achievement, and the message of the book is positive and inspiring. The simple but emotive full-color, cartoon-like illustrations by Theodore Taylor III underscore the warm and entertaining story, bringing Barry, Little Shaq, and a multiethnic cast of characters to life.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the relationship between Shaq and Barry. Even though Little Shaq is better than Barry at sports and video games, is it OK for him to brag and boast?

  • Did the fact that this book is by a famous basketball player make you want to read it? Why are stories written by celebrities so popular?

  • Community gardens can be a great project for kids to work on together and with adults. Is there one in your neighborhood where you could volunteer? If not, could you start one?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sports and the environment

Themes & Topics

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