The Things I Didn't Say, by Kylie Fornasier

I hate the label Selective Mutism – as if I choose not to speak, like a kid who refuses to eat broccoli. I’ve used up every dandelion wish since I was ten wishing for the power to speak whenever I want to. I’m starting to wonder if there are enough dandelions.

Piper Rhodes doesn’t talk to strangers. But far from this being a sign of following parental rules, her silence seems inexplicable. She can talk at home, and to people she knows well, but at school and in the community, words fail her. This causes lots of problems, but as she starts at a new school for her final year of schooling, Piper is never more aware of just how problematic it can be. Teachers think she’s being rude, and making friends is difficult. Then there’s West: the school captain, soccer-star, boy who has it all. He seems intent of getting to know her, even if it means writing notes.

Selective Mutism is a difficult condition to live with and for other people to comprehend. Even the name is problematic, as Piper complains, implying a ‘selection’ or choice being made. The Things I Didn’t Say is a wonderful exploration of the challenges it holds for one teen character, at the same time as being just a great read about friendship, peer pressure, and parental expectation. Piper has changed schools by choice after losing her best friend following a drunken party, and at the new school finds both new friends and new enemies. West, who appears to have it all, also has struggles, particularly with meeting the expectations his parents have of him. Their seemingly unlikely relationship blossoms through notes and text messages, but is threatened by people around them.

An excellent young adult read.

The Things I Didn’t Say, by Kylie Fornasier
Penguin, 2016
ISBN 9780143573630

Tiny Timmy: Soccer Superstar! by Tim Cahill

A word of advice, lad,’ Coach Roach said. ‘Practise until you can practise any more. Work on your game. You may not get any bigger, but you’ll definitely get better. Then who knows, it might not matter how big you are.’

Tiny Timmy desperately wants to make the school soccer team. He tries hard to show the coach what he can do – but he keeps getting tackled, tripped and bumped. When the team sheet goes up, Timmy is on orange duty. Coach tells him that his problem is his size – but encourages him to keep practising. So Timmy plays soccer and practises his skills at every opportunity. He also tries to figure out ways to get taller. But it is when he discovers that he has a special skill nobody knew about, that he finds a way into the team.

Soccer Superstar is the first in in the Tiny Timmy series written by Socceroos legend Tim Cahill. For young soccer fans, or anyone who loves humour and action, the story blends funny moments with sport and personal discovery. The text is accessible with good sized font and embellishments, and complemented by comic style illustrations by Heath McKenzie.

A strong start to the series.

Soccer Superstar , by Tim Cahill
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781760158880

Extra Time, by Morris Gleitzman

As we hurry towards the under-fifteen training pitch, I start to get a feeling in my tummy that something isn’t right.
It’s the right game, soccer.
And there’s skill all over the place. Which is perfect for Matt because he won’t have to get into any arguments about changing sides.
And the pitch looks brilliant. Smooth and green and completely free of wombat activity.
And yet something’s a bit weird.

It’s probably never easy being the manager for a star football player, but when you’re ten years old and the star is your fourteen year old brother there can be all sorts of complications. Ten year old Bridie is so proud of her bother, and is sure that she can help him land a contract to play in England, and follow his dreams.

After a run of bad luck for their family, it seems things are looking up when they get the chance to travel to England and try out for a big-league soccer club. Once they’re there, though, Bridie begins to have her doubts. There’s something strange about the other players they meet: nobody is happy. What if Matt stops being happy, too?

Extra Time has award winning-author Morris Gleitzman’s familiar blend of humour and heart-tug. Bridie’s love of her brother, and the rest of her family, and her sometimes-wise, sometimes-naive world view is endearing. The adult characters are almost pantomime in their wackiness, which adds to the fun, balanced by the tough times faced and hinted at.

Likely to appeal to readers aged nine and over, Extra Time.

 

Book Cover:  Extra Time

Extra Time, by Morris Gleitzman
Penguin Books, 2013
ISBN 9780143307754

Available from good bookstores or online.

Goal! by Catherine Chambers

Pinpointing the origins of football is rather like scrambling for the ball itself. “It’s MINE! I got here FIRST!” Many claim it, but few can prove it. Kicking a pebble may well have been born in a prehistoric cave; we’ll probably never know for sure. But with regards to a more structured game, there are written histories, archaeological finds and artworks from ancient China and Japan to Egypt, Greece, Rome, Australia and the Americas. As archaeologists work their way around the globe, they’ll probably find that football’s web of roots reaches almost everywhere. and while the games may vary from country to country, city to city, and school to school, the name “football” has been used for centuries, while the name :soccer” is a much more recent invention.

Australians have mostly known football to be the game that uses the Sherrin, features marks and long kicks and has four posts at each end of the playing field. But the world knows football as the game Australians once called soccer. Catherine Chambers suggests that football owes its world popularity to its roots in almost every country. In Goal!she explores the history of football from early documentation to current statistics. And like the global coverage of the World Cup, no country or individual element is forgotten. Discover why a king called the game dangerous, one mayor thought playing it would contribute to the spread of foot and mouth disease and some churches declared playing it a sin! See how the rules evolved to those used today and why umpires are now called referees. ‘Goal!’ includes player profiles and statistics, chapters on female football, politics and money, and many info bites with anecdotes and oddities.

Catherine Chambers also wrote ‘A History of Cricket’ and employs the same engaging conversational style in Goal. She invites the reader to come take a chair and discover why football is the sport for everyman (and woman). From seed-filled cloth balls to the challenges of World Cup qualification, Goal!is jam-packed full of football. There is a list of contents, glossary and extensive index, making navigation easy for the can’t-sit-still, dip-in reader. The progression from ancient to modern times entices sequential reading. There are ball-shaped bios that pass from one to the next featured player. It’s like a ‘choose your own adventure’ for sport. Recommended for upper primary, early secondary readers, and anyone who wants to know more about football with the round ball.

Goal

Goal! Catherine Chambers
Black Dog Books 2010
ISBN: 9781742031576

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
www.clairesaxby.com

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Diary of a Soccer Star, by Shamini Flint

I scored a goal today.
Unfortunately, it was an own goal.
It wasn’t my fault.
Really, it wasn’t!
Jack, “Talk to the Feet” Gordon hit the ball back to the keeper. (I’ve just found out this is called a back pass.)
The goalkeeper went for one of those long kicks…why couldn’t he just pick the ball up, the clod?
(I’ve just discovered that the goalie is not allowed to pick up the ball from a back pass – stupid rule!)
You see the coach had told me to play in defence.. So what actually happened was that the ball hit me on the back. Well, to be honest, the ball hit my bottom…

Marcus Atkinson’s dad has decided that Marcus needs to spend more time outside, less on the computer, more time making friends. And that means soccer. His dad has an answer to every one of Marcus’ objections. Marcus is good at maths, and lousy, he knows, at soccer – at every sport really. His recollections of earlier sporting attempts are all filled with disaster. Why will this be any different? And if that’s not bad enough, his teacher wants him to keep a diary. And worse still, his first game makes him famous around the school – as the boy who made an ‘own goal’ with his bottom. It’s true! There’s a photo to prove it. He’s good at maths, and wishes that was enough. But he must play soccer. When soccer and maths collide, Marcus isn’t quite sure what will happen. There are black and white illustrations on every opening.

Diary of a Soccer Star introduces the reader to a nerdy boy who is convinced that he’s an absolute loss when it comes to playing soccer. His first game was a disaster and he’s convinced things will not improve. His father has written a motivational book and is a walking motivator with a slogan to address any negativity. He encourages his son to continue to train at soccer despite Marcus’ reservations. Marcus sees himself as good at maths and bad at soccer. And he thinks that cannot change. When the chips are down though, Marcus realises that he does have friends and maths doesn’t just belong in a text book. Illustrations make Diary of a Soccer Star an excellent choice for readers daunted by the move to less illustrated texts. In many ways, it reads like a graphic novel. Recommended for independent readers and reluctant readers.

Diary of a Soccer Star

Diary of a Soccer Star, Shamini Flint, ill Sally Heinrich
Sunbear Publishing
ISBN: 9789810858247 (Distributed in Australia via Fremantle Press)

Reviewed by Claire Saxby Children’s book author.
www.clairesaxby.com

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Goal! How Football Conquered the World, by Catherine Chambers

In 1746, Derby’s Mayor Humphrey Booth banned Shrovetide football, saying it might spread foot-and-mouth disease among the local cattle. Nearly 100 years later in 1846, another mayor who came bounding in on horseback to break up the games was stoned by a screaming mob, and got so angry that he called in the troops. The next year, no-one bothered turning up to play.(p24)

Many countries would like to lay claim to ‘inventing’ football but proof is difficult to establish. It is clear that, worldwide, balls have been kicked since very early times. Balls have been made from rubber, hair, sponge, animal skins, cloth and animal bladders. Football has been called ‘marn-grook’, ‘tsu chu’, ‘kemari’, ‘aqsaqtuk’, ‘episkyros’ and ‘soccer’. Football competitions have waxed and waned in different parts of the world, but always there has been passion. Passion to play, passion to follow. Football has grown into an sport played everywhere from backyards to the grandest stadium. It boasts over 250 million registered players and 30 billion followers. FIFA, the game’s governing body, recognises 207 national teams – more than there are countries in the UN.

Goal! How Football Conquered the World tracks the evolution of football (more commonly called soccer here) from earliest times. It is a history citing archaeological evidence, a collection of statistics and a compilation of anecdotes. There is an extensive index of players, teams and countries. Fans will eat up the statistics as well as the stories and legends that accompany any sport. The style is conversational and the language accessible to most readers. ‘Goal’ is pitched at upper primary – early secondary readers. Though there is a small section detailing the involvement of girls/women in football, the book will have most interest for boys.

Goal! How Football Conquered the World by Catherine Chambers
black dog books 2006
ISBN: 1876372982

Gracie Faltrian Takes Control, by Cath Crowley

‘Give it to me,’ I whisper. I want to take the shot so bad…
The sound of smacked leather echoes and I’m off. I soar past Shukman, the strongest player from the opposition, and keep the goal clearly in sight. It’s so easy; I take a minute to play with the ball. I hook it onto my left ankle and toss it back to my right. Casual. Like I’m throwing with my hands. I tease everyone on the field.

Gracie Faltrain is happy – and why wouldn’t she be? She has a great boyfriend, her parents are back together, and the soccer season has just started. She is not going to repeat the errors of last season – she has learnt her lesson about being selfish.

But just as things seems to be going so well, Gracie has brand new problems waiting to bring her back down. Coach has entered the soccer team in the prestigious Firsts competition. A competition only for boys. And Gracie, as she is painfully aware, is not a boy. And it seems not even her parents want to support her fight to be included in the team. Off the field, Gracie is sick of watching her friend Alyce and her boyfriend Martin struggle to find happiness. She wants to take control and make sure they come out winners. But doing so could risk everyone’s happiness – including her own.

Gracie Faltrain Takes Control is a warm-hearted story about a soccer loving girl struggling to get it right – on and off the field. It is a feel-good book, but that is not to say that it is happy-ever after book. Bad stuff happens and Gracie has lessons to learn about life. Gracie is a likeable character but at times you feel like shaking her as her self-absorption makes her unable to see the truth – perceiving instead what she would like to be real.

A sequel to The Life and Times of Gracie Falrain, this book does stand alone, but is more satisfying read after the first.

A touching read.

Gracie Faltrain Takes Control, by Cath Crowley
Pan, 2006

The Life and Times of Gracie Faltrain, by Cath Crowley

Gracie Faltrain is doing fine. Her soccer team is off to the national championships, she’s just about to capture the boy of her dreams and she’s well on the way to being ‘in’ at school. But Gracie is about to learn that life is not always fair.

First her best friend Jane leaves the country. Then there’s an unfortunate event involving her tongue and her dream-boy’s ear, which makes her a laughing-stock at school. When she finds out that the boys don’t want her on the soccer team any more, she thinks life can’t get any worse, but she’s wrong. Her parents have news of the worst possible kind.

Within days, Gracie is floundering. No friends, no soccer, no love-life – and perhaps no family – add up to one confused and angry Gracie. Is there anything she can do to make things better, or should she just resign herself to her new screwed-up life?

The Life and Times of Gracie Faltrain is an outstanding first-time novel for author Cath Crowley. Its unusual use of point of view – with perspective changing from that of Gracie to those of other characters – will appeal to teen readers. Each new perspective is highlighted by a new page with the characters speaking directly both to the reader and, at times, each other, as they recount the action.

A mix of humour, poignance and more serious themes of friendship, family and self-image.

The Life and Times of Gracie Faltrain, by Cath Crowley
Pan Macmillan, 2004