From the critically acclaimed author of Amina’s Voice comes the first book in an exciting new middle grade series about a fourth-grader with big dreams of basketball stardom.
Fourth grader Zayd Saleem has some serious hoop dreams. He’s not just going to be a professional basketball player. He’s going to be a star. A legend. The first Pakistani-American kid to make it to the NBA. He knows this deep in his soul. It’s his destiny. There are only a few small things in his way.
For starters, Zayd’s only on the D-team. (D stands for developmental, but to Zayd it’s always felt like a bad grade or something.) Not to mention, he’s a bit on the scrawny side, even for the fourth grade team. But his best friend Adam is on the Gold Team, and it’s Zayd’s dream for the two of them to play together.
His mom and dad don’t get it. They want him to practice his violin way more than his jump shot. When he gets caught blowing off his violin lessons to practice, Zayd’s parents lay down the ultimate punishment: he has to hang up his high tops and isn’t allowed to play basketball anymore.
As tryouts for the Gold Team approach, Zayd has to find the courage to stand up for himself and chase his dream.
Fourth grader Zayd Saleem is not just going to be a professional basketball player. He’s going to be a star—the first Pakistani-American kid to make it to the NBA. However, life can get complicated, especially when your dreams are different from the plans your family has for you. Zayd has a loving and close-knit family, but what his parents want him to do (and eat) is not always the same as what he wants for himself. After his favorite uncle, Jamal Mamoo, helps him learn to stand up for himself, it’s his turn to be a leader and help his best friend Adam and Uncle Jamal to follow their dreams as well.
1. Make a family tree for Zayd, including a description of each member of his family. Can you relate to his relationships with his mom, dad, sister, uncle, or grandparents? How is his family similar to yours? How is it different?
2. How does Zayd respond to stress and anxiety? Do you think there is anything that seems to help him when he is feeling anxious? What do you do when you are anxious or worried about something?
3. Why do you think Zayd’s parents want him to continue to play the violin? Have your parents ever wanted you to do something that you didn’t want to do? How did you handle it?
4. How does Zayd initially deal with the conflict between his desire to focus on earning a spot on the gold team and his parents’ wish for him to pursue orchestra? How does his mother find out that he has stopped going to orchestra practice? What lesson does he learn from his mistake?
5. Zayd has a very close relationship with his uncle, Jamal Mamoo. How does Jamal encourage Zayd? Why is it important to have an adult in your life whom you can trust?
6. Zayd comes from a Pakistani American family. What cultural traditions do they have that are different and similar from your family’s traditions?
7. Three generations of the Saleem family are featured in these two books: grandparents, parents, and children (Zayd and Zara). Do you see any differences in each generation’s habits, styles, and preferences? Why might that be?
8. Why does Zayd’s mother ask him to keep a food diary? What does he learn about himself as a result of keeping the diary? Have you ever thought about the way different foods make you feel?
9. Why does Zayd choose John Wall to research for his role model project? What qualities do you think make someone a good role model?
10. How does Zayd’s family show that they support one another? Why do you think Zayd resisted telling his parents how he really felt about basketball and orchestra?
11. The book titles Power Forward and On Point are phrases that have both literal meanings and figurative connotations. How does each title reflect each book’s message? The big ideas or messages in books are called themes. Can you relate the title of each book to its theme?
12. The first line of On Point states: “Sometimes when you finally get something you really want, it ends up not being what you hoped it would be.” Why does Zayd say this? Have you ever felt this way?
13. What does playing basketball teach Zayd about being a good teammate? What is your favorite sport or activity? What can you do to become a better teammate, classmate, or friend?
14. Why is planning the wedding stressful for Jamal Mamoo and Nadia Auntie? What advice does Zayd give them?
15. What causes conflict in Zayd and Adam’s relationship? How do they resolve this conflict? Have you ever argued with a friend? How did you resolve your differences?
16. Why is Zayd nervous about filling Adam’s position on the basketball team?
17. What are important qualities in a leader? Do you think Zayd will be a good team leader?
18. When we talk about conflict in literature, we describe it as either internal (an emotional or mental conflict inside a character) or external. What types of conflict does Zayd face in these books? Are all of his conflicts resolved?
19. In fiction, we use the term dynamic to describe a character that changes. By the end of On Point, how has Zayd changed?
1. Zayd’s family is from Pakistan. What did you learn about Pakistani culture from Power Forward and On Point? After reading Hena Khan’s books, make a list of questions you have about Pakistan and research the answers to those questions.
2. We all have cultural and family traditions that are important parts of our identities. How much do you know about your own cultural heritage? Prepare an informative speech, presentation, or video to teach your classmates about one of your family’s traditions.
3. Food plays a big part in Zayd’s family members’ lives, especially in their celebrations. Have you ever tried Pakistani food? Choose one of the foods that Zayd mentions and decide how best to try it; you could re-create it from a recipe, visit a Pakistani restaurant, or find it in an international food market.
4. Who is your role model? Just as Zayd researches John Wall for his school project, research the life of someone you admire. After learning more about them, are they still your role model? Which of their traits and accomplishments do you value most? Did you learn anything about them that surprised you?
5. How would you describe Zayd and his experiences in Power Forward and On Point to other readers? Design a poster or a storyboard for a book trailer that you feel captures Zayd’s personality and how you felt while reading these books. Think about what makes a poster or trailer so compelling, including images, taglines, and a color scheme.
6. Being a successful athlete often means learning how to function well on a team. As a class, brainstorm some qualities you find important in a teammate or a coach. Then choose a partner and roleplay a conversation between two teammates or between an athlete and a coach in which both display some of these qualities; now, roleplay the same scenario again where one person does not display any of these qualities. How do the dynamics and end results of the conversations change? What do you think are the most challenging and rewarding elements of being a member of a sports team? Where else outside of a sports team might you need to work closely with others to accomplish a goal?
Guide prepared by Amy Jurskis, English Department Chair at Oxbridge Academy.
This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Hena Khan is the author of several books including Amina’s Voice; Power Forward; On Point; Bounce Back; It’s Ramadan, Curious George; Golden Domes and SilverLanterns; and The Night of the Moon. Hena lives in her hometown of Rockville, Maryland, with her husband and two sons. You can learn more about Hena by visiting her website at HenaKhan.com.
Sally Wern Comport has illustrated numerous picture books and novels, including Love Will See You Through: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Six Guiding Beliefs; Brave Margaret: An Irish Adventure; Hanging Off Jefferson’s Nose: Growing Up on Mt. Rushmore; and the Spy Mice series. She has also translated her picture making skills to various large scale public, private, and institutional artworks. Sally lives with her husband and two daughters in Annapolis, Maryland, where she operates Art at Large Inc. Learn more at ArtAtLargeInc.com.