We live in an era of innovation, including in literature. Many young readers think they don’t like reading… until they find the right book.
Kobe Bryant, 41, died on Sunday, January 25 in a helicopter tragedy.
Most will remember him for his NBA career, instead of his dream of storytelling.
Bryant was more proud of his short film, “Dear Basketball,” than his basketball accomplishments, and talks often about how much he loves storytelling. The short film is based on one of his own poems.
While he was a kid, Bryant didn’t care much for reading because he struggled to find material that was interesting to him. And of course, he loved basketball.
Bryant recalls that he once failed to write a short story that he would need to share in English class. So, he made it up on the spot.
His English teacher at the time, Jeanne Mastriano, encouraged him to develop his storytelling abilities. In an interview, Bryant told USA Today, “She firmly believed that storytelling could change the world. And she opened my eyes to this passion I didn't know existed.”
To fulfill that life goal, the basketball legend recently wrote a middle-grade fantasy series in partnership with YA writer Wesley King.
Bryant says that the goal of the book is “teaching valuable life lessons to the next generation, with whatever they hope to do,” which he told Parade in an interview.
The Wizenard series describes a group of inner-city kids whose new basketball coach uses magic to increase not only their basketball abilities but their personal growth. Bryant also said he wanted to encourage children to develop their own “inner magic” through the book.
Kirkus Reviews called the book “unusual in structure and plot as readers experience the same incidents portrayed through different perspectives, each revealing another layer of the story.”
The story focuses on low-income, diverse kids who overcome weaknesses, fears, and struggles in order to become better basketball players and better people. Every chapter includes a proverb like this one: "Everyone has a choice every moment of the day. Look, or look away.”
We all remember being a kid with struggles.
Book characters can be powerful role models for readers who need to see themselves as survivors.
Further, Bryant’s book blurs genre lines. There are plenty of sports books, sure, and plenty of fantasies, especially for young adults. But how many sports fantasies are there? Not many.
Bryant’s life and career have been controversial, as is his book. He wrote in a controversial format, and as an outsider to the storytelling world. Still, his book is inventive; few books are geared toward his particular audience. It’s an audience without much representation, but that is changing – partially through writers like Bryant and King.
Kobe Bryant will hopefully be remembered for his literary goals as well as his basketball success. And hopefully, others will follow his example and write creative, outside-the-box works that reach kids of all types – not just the privileged and the average. As we create new genres and formats for new generations, let us remember the ability of books to inspire those who need it most.
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About The Blogger
Sarah Beach is a writer, editor, and researcher with an intense need for herbal tea. She writes about a variety of subjects, including social media, mental health, memes, and holistic wellness. Sarah is a graduate student in the field of Communication Studies and teaches rhetoric. She is also a registered Reiki practitioner and enthusiastic ukulele player. When she’s not writing, you can find her wandering aimlessly outdoors or watching period dramas.
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