Goal! by Mia Javaherbin is a story set in South Africa. The main character, Ajani, wins a soccer ball (called football in the books) for being the best reader in his class. He and his friends set out to play “football”, even though the streets are not safe. They encounter some bullies during their game, but they persevere over them. The book is brilliantly illustrated and all the kids in my daycare loved them. Avery, who is in 3rd grade, easily read this, though the traditional African names were tricky, even to me. From 18 months to 12 years old, they all loved this story.
Bob Kolar’s children’s book, Big Kicks is a story about a lovable bear, Biggie, who enjoys his collection, playing music, and being a loner. One day, the neighborhood soccer team knocks on his door because they are in need of some big help and they think Biggie’s their man. He may be a clumsy bear, but he is very sweet and endearing and this book really draws you to him. All of the younger children loved the tale of Biggie and asked me to read it over and over again.
Winning Words: Sports Stories and Photographs is written and illustrated by Charles R. Smith Jr. It is a non-fiction book with inspiring stories about amazing athletes who are both motivating and moving. These stories are all different, but have one common theme: strive to be the best you can and face your fears head on. The photographs are amazing and even Quinn loved looking at the pictures, even if he was uninterested in the stories. Avery, however, loved this one. It was his favorite of the four.
Keeper by Mal Peet was my personal favorite of the four, though each of them were amazing in their own way. Keeper is a story about El Gato, the amazing South American goalkeeper who singlehandedly brought his team to the World Cup and is told by the reporter, Paul Faustino, that interviews him. Faustino rapidly learns that his story is no ordinary one. What follows is El Gato’s compelling life story, which begins in the South American rainforest with a magical, but very real mentor, the Keeper. This story was an amazing tale filled with apprehension, desire, hope, and is very enchanting. A must read for older readers and parents alike.
Any of these books would make a great gift for a blooming or an avid soccer fan. Each can be purchased from RandomHouse.com and from many other book retailers.
Thank you to Candlewick Press for sending us sample books free of charge to base this review upon.