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On Point

Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport


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About The Book

From the critically acclaimed author of Amina’s Voice comes the second book in an exciting new middle grade series about a scrawny fourth-grader with big dreams of basketball stardom.

Now that Zayd has made the Gold Team, he’s hustling hard and loving every minute of the season.

But when the team starts to struggle, Zayd can’t help wondering if it has something to do with him. Even worse, his best friend Adam suddenly starts acting like he doesn’t care about basketball anymore, even though they are finally teammates. He stops playing basketball with Zayd at recess and starts hanging out with other kids. Then, Adam up and quits the Gold Team to play football instead.

While his uncle’s wedding preparations turn life into a circus at home, Zayd is left on his own to figure things out. He has to decide how to still be friends with Adam and step up to fill the empty shoes he left on the court. Does Zayd have what it takes to be on point and lead his team back to victory?


On Point

Sometimes when you finally get something you really want, it ends up not being what you hoped it would be. Like that remote-control car that’s supposed to be able to drive over anything but gets stuck on the carpet and spins its wheels. Or the haircut that is cool looking on that kid on TV but on you looks like a giant mushroom sprouted on top of your head.

So far, though, being on my new basketball team is as amazing as I thought it would be. It’s totally worth the weeks of practice I put into getting ready for tryouts. And that includes getting grounded when I skipped violin practice to play basketball instead. I’m finally on the best team in the fourth-grade league with my best friend, Adam. And each time I lace up my sneakers and step onto the gym floor during practice, I feel like a million bucks.

It’s halftime during our first game of the season. My parents and older sister, Zara, are in the stands. I heard them cheering loudly for me when Coach Wheeler put me in during the last five minutes of the first half. I missed a wide-open shot but had a good pass and a nice rebound. And now I get to start the second half! My heart is thumping wildly in my chest. This is exactly the moment I’ve been waiting for.

We’re huddled around Coach and his clipboard, where he scribbles down plays and taps his pen to make his point. We’re down by four. Not too bad. Although by the way Coach is speaking, you’d think we were losing by a lot.

“All right, guys.” Coach Wheeler taps on the clipboard. “I know we have new players. We’re still learning to work together as a team. That’s no excuse for rushing your passes and turning the ball over. Remember to keep the ball up when you rebound.”

I look around at my new teammates’ faces. Adam looks determined. Blake is super sweaty. Ravindu looks like he hasn’t slept enough. And Sam? He’s mouthing something to his mom in the bleachers instead of paying attention.

“Who’s going to take us home?” Coach asks.

“Let’s do this,” Adam says gruffly. He’s the team captain, and he puts his hand out first. I stick mine on top of his, and soon there’s a pile of hands.

“One, two, three, MD HOOPS!” we shout in unison. I feel reenergized as I step back onto the court. I’m going to put up some serious points in the second half. I can feel it.

Blake inbounds the ball, and Adam starts to take it up the court. I always admire his handles. He can dribble behind his back, and he has a sweet crossover. He’s stuck right now, though, because the other team is pressing him hard. Two guys are all over him.

“Over here,” I yell, holding out my hands. Adam glances at me for a second but then flings the ball over to Blake. A kid from the other team strips it from Blake before he has possession. The kid takes it down the court on a fast break and makes an easy layup. Now we’re down by six.

We get the ball back, and this time Adam passes it to me. I immediately have two guys smothering me. All I can see is a bunch of arms waving in my face like a giant octopus. They’ve got me in a trap, and I try to pass the ball back to Adam. But I turn the ball over. The other team runs down the court and puts up two more points. Now we’re down eight.

My dad loves this old movie where this guy wakes up each morning and the same thing happens to him over and over again. It sounds super boring to me, but now I know what he means when he says, “This reminds me of Groundhog Day.” Because the same exact pattern keeps repeating. We get the ball. They press us. We turn the ball over. They score. Repeat.

We’re down by twelve with only three minutes left.

“Time out!” Coach yells. He looks as sweaty as we are and has been pacing the sidelines and yelling louder as each minute ticks by.

“Let’s see if you guys have better luck,” he mutters as he puts in the entire bench for the rest of the game. Adam and I sit next to Blake, Sam, and Ravindu and watch as our teammates try to shake things up. It doesn’t work. We end up losing 32–17.

This isn’t how I imagined playing on the gold team would feel. They were undefeated last season and got second place in the playoffs. I thought I’d be playing on that team. Today feels like I got another mushroom haircut.

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream

#1: Power Forward

#2: On Point

By Hena Khan

About the Books

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.

Discussion Questions

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?

Extension Activities

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.

About The Author

Photo (c) Havar Espedal

Hena Khan is a Pakistani American writer. She is the author of the middle grade novels Amina’s VoiceAmina’s Song, More to the StoryDrawing Deena, and the Zara’s Rules series and picture books Golden Domes and Silver LanternsUnder My Hijab, and It’s Ramadan, Curious George, among others. Hena lives in her hometown of Rockville, Maryland, with her family. You can learn more about Hena and her books by visiting her website at or connecting with her @HenaKhanBooks.

About The Illustrator

Photograph by Coleman Sellers Photography

Sally Wern Comport has illustrated numerous picture books and novels, including Love Will See You Through: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Six Guiding Beliefs (as told by his niece)Brave Margaret: An Irish AdventureHanging 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

Product Details

  • Publisher: Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (May 29, 2018)
  • Length: 144 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781534412019
  • Ages: 7 - 10

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Raves and Reviews

"With just enough action to keep readers turning the pages and a sprinkle of age-appropriate realizations throughout, this small book is a great pick for elementary-age readers....A delightful follow-up from a writer who understands children, family, and culture."

– Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2018

"A great balance between sports action and realistic fiction featuring the everyday life of a boy from a traditional Pakistani
family. Readers will look forward to further adventures featuring Zayd."

– Booklist, May 1, 2018

Awards and Honors

  • Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best

Resources and Downloads

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More books from this author: Hena Khan

More books from this illustrator: Sally Wern Comport

More books in this series: Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream