Rising Above: The Wataru Wat Misaka Story

by Hayley Diep (Author) Naomi Giddings (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

This dynamic picture book biography introduces readers of all ages to Wataru Misaka, the first non-white athlete to play in the NBA

Wataru "Wat" Misaka, a Japanese American boy born to immigrant parents, liked to play basketball under the glow of stars and a small street lamp in Ogden, Utah. America was home to Wat, but with the onset of World War II, many people thought he didn't belong. "Go home!" they would shout as he dribbled the ball down the hardwood court, but Wat continued on his chosen path, winning state tournaments in high school, becoming a national champion with the University of Utah, and even serving in the U.S. Army.

The New York Knicks took notice, and in 1947, Wat became the first person of color to play in the NBA. During a time when nearly all of America mistrusted and mistreated Japanese Americans, Wataru Misaka embodied courage and strength, pursuing the game he loved and becoming a symbol of hope for Japanese Americans sent to incarceration camps.

Lost in the annals of history for too long, this remarkable story of identity, belonging, and following one's own path is now illuminated through lyrical text and vivid illustrations.

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Kirkus Reviews

Readers will come away appreciating his achievements and, just maybe, wondering why they've never heard of him before. Quiet in tone, electrifying in content.

Review quotes


Hayley Diep
Hayley Diep is a writer and teacher based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the author of If You Give a Girl a Bike.

Naomi Giddings is a Japanese American freelance illustrator from the Washington, DC area, currently based in California.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Triumph Books (IL)
Publication date
November 14, 2023
BISAC categories
JNF007050 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Cultural Heritage
JNF018010 - Juvenile Nonfiction | People & Places | United States - African-American
JNF042000 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Poetry | General
JNF009000 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Boys & Men
JNF007100 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Sports & Recreation
JNF053200 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Social Topics | Values & Virtues
JNF054050 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Sports & Recreation | Football
JNF024080 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Health & Daily Living | Safety
JNF069000 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Diversity & Multicultural
Library of Congress categories
United States
Japanese Americans
JUVENILE NONFICTION / Health & Daily Living /
Basketball players
JUVENILE NONFICTION / Sports & Recreation / F
Misaka, Wat

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