Reviewed by Debbie Reese
Earlier this month, I was in San Diego at the California Indian Ed for All 2023 Summit. I was invited to give a presentation about children’s books. During that trip I was reading an advance copy of Rez Ball by Byron Graves. At the gathering during breaks or meals, I’d tell people, “Hey! I’m reading this new book, Rez Ball. . . .” and I’d tell them a bit about what I’d been reading. Their faces lit up and I was glad to see them jotting down the title. For me, and them, and so many Native kids, basketball is the game!
The morning of my departure, I was so caught up by the book that I nearly missed my plane!
I’m one of the Native kids who grew up on a reservation where playing basketball was the thing. In high school, some of my cousins from Nambé played on the basketball team. Years later, I taught at a school for Native kids and can’t tell you have many times I got hoarse, cheering for our teams (especially when we were making it to state championship games). Then came a years-long span of time when I wasn’t watching games. But then last year we moved to California and I started following the NBA. Continue reading on American Indians in Children’s Literature.
Rez Ball by Byron Graves
Published by HarperCollins on September 12, 2023
Genres: American Indians First Nations Metis Inuit, Sports
Reading Level: High School
Review Source: American Indians in Children's Literature
Publisher's Synopsis: This compelling debut novel by new talent Byron Graves tells the relatable, high-stakes story of a young athlete determined to play like the hero his Ojibwe community needs him to be.
These days, Tre Brun is happiest when he is playing basketball on the Red Lake Reservation high school team—even though he can’t help but be constantly gut-punched with memories of his big brother, Jaxon, who died in an accident.
When Jaxon's former teammates on the varsity team offer to take Tre under their wing, he sees this as his shot to represent his Ojibwe rez all the way to their first state championship. This is the first step toward his dream of playing in the NBA, no matter how much the odds are stacked against him.
But stepping into his brother’s shoes as a star player means that Tre can’t mess up. Not on the court, not at school, and not with his new friend, gamer Khiana, who he is definitely not falling in love with.
After decades of rez teams almost making it, Tre needs to take his team to state. Because if he can live up to Jaxon's dreams, their story isn’t over yet.
This book is published by Heartdrum, an imprint that publishes high-quality, contemporary stories about Indigenous young people in the United States and Canada.