A Basketball Game on Wake Street By Batouly Camara, Illustrated by Shifa Annisa (2020) – paperback
Author Batouly Camara is a forward on the UConn women’s basketball team who’s made it her life’s mission to educate and empower young girls. All proceeds from the sales of A Basketball Game on Wake Street go to the programming initiatives she’s helped create with her nonprofit organization, Wake Academy.
Batouly’s created such a powerfully inclusive book, deserving of a place at every children’s school and library! The story follows a girl named Aicha. She has dyslexia but that doesn’t stop her from planning her basketball dream team. From the cover, we see a diverse team of girls of different races and abilities. There are two girls wearing hijabs, one is wearing a hearing aid, and another is using a wheelchair. I love that all the characters are included on the cover, implying that they are all equally significant in their own ways. Illustrator Shifa Annisa brought these girls’ stories to life in such a vibrant and engaging way.
Aicha has dyslexia but, with help from her mom, she writes down a few qualities needed to make a winning basketball team. Each of her friends have unique abilities along with their unique challenges. This book makes it clear that these challenges are a part of who they are but they do not define their identities. The author made it a point to use “people-first language,” which aims to change the way we speak about the differently-abled by putting the person before their disability. It is important to teach children how to address their differently-abled and unique friends in a way that is respectful and empowering.
Aicha spends her day at school recruiting new team members and explaining why they are a great fit for her team. She recognizes that all eight members have unique abilities. Aicha has dyslexia and is a daydreamer. Sona wears a hijab and she is hardworking. Joy uses a wheelchair and she is “lightning-quick.” Tiana has cancer and she is brave. Amy has autism, wears a hearing aid, and she is mentally sharp. Fanta also wears a hijab. She is deaf and she is kind. Bridget has a prosthetic leg and she is strong. Mary has asthma and she is energetic. The fact that they are all so unique makes for a perfect, winning team. Aicha realizes that she really can turn her daydreams into reality!
The array of diversity in race, religion, and ability and the emphasis of an all-girls basketball team was so refreshing to see in a children’s book. Girls, especially those with disabilities, with an interest in sports will be empowered to follow their passions after reading this book.
Take-away message: Your disability does not define you. Differently-abled children are just as capable of having the same interests and skills as able-bodied children. With a focus basketball, this book also sends the message that team sports have the power to unite people from a wide array of backgrounds. It’s the perfect book to encourage inclusivity and the love of sports!
TAGS: female empowerment, female lead, diverse characters, disabilities, self-published, paperback