Synopses & Reviews
Scott is a washed-up football player who never made it, and whose girlfriend abandoned him along with his dreams of playing pro football. But things have a way of working out, in this sweet, poetic tale--and a new chapter in Scott's life begins as the old one ends. Offered a position in a Japanese sumo training "stable," Scott abandons his old life, his old name, and even his old hair color, and becomes an aspiring sumo wrestler. And in so doing, he begins to find some kind of center in himself...a center that had seemed lost for good. Thien Pham, the acclaimed illustrator of Gene Luen Yang's Level Up, returns as the writer and artist of a unique new graphic novel.Highly poetic and structured to echo the slow build and sudden clash of a sumo match, Pham's Sumo is an unusual and beautiful book. It's nearly a contradiction in terms: a delicate, deft, tender tale about...sumo wrestling.
About the Author
Thien Pham is a comic book and visual artist, based in the Bay Area. He is also a high school teacher. Pham illustrated Gene Luen Yang's Level Up, a YALSA Great Graphic Novel and New York Times Notable Children's Book. Sumo is his first solo work.
Reading Group Guide
A lot of the story is told in just pictures, especially moments of action and emotion. How did the illustrations alone tell parts of the story?
Each of the three storylines had its own color: blue for back home, orange for the school, and green for Scotts time with Asami. What do you think of this technique? How do the colors add to the storytelling?
What do you think of Scotts decision to go to Japan? Was it a decision that you would have made? Do you think it turned out to be a good decision?
Scotts friend Ryan says that being dumped is not a good enough reason to leave home, but Scott says he has nothing to stay for in any case. What makes it worth staying somewhere, or worth leaving?
Asami tells Scott that sumo isnt doing so well because “kids these days have no love for tradition.” Do you agree or disagree with that assessment? Does tradition play a role in your own life?
The story ends with two visual metaphors: the plane taking off, and the fish being released into water. Do these metaphors mean the same thing, or do they have different meanings? What are some other moments in life that could evoke similar sensations?
The novel has many scenes of training and competition in the dojo. How does the world of sumo wrestling compare with more familiar sports at home?
At the end of the story, many moments overlap where people say that Scott will be okay. What makes them and him so confident? What makes you feel sure of yourself?
Scotts Oyakata, or coach tells him that the three most important things in sumo are mind, body and spirit. How do you think those three concepts work together in sumo?