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.

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

Hungry Ghosts, by Sally Heinrich

We sat in silence while she finished the cake…
‘Well, I’ve given you food now. I guess there’s no need to haunt me any more.’
She gave me a strange piercing look.
‘I see you again.’ Then she was gone.
And the cake that I’d watched her devour was still on the plate…

Sarah isn’t happy about moving to Australia.. She’s had to leave behind her friends, her home and her school in Singapore and start all over in a country where even the English spoken is different. Now Dad is trying to turn her into a dinkum Aussie – complete with Vegemite sandwiches in her lunchbox – and Mum is clinging to Chinese traditions. Then, on the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts, Sarah realises someone is talking to her – someone who seems to be a ghost.

As Sarah tries to figure out how to help her new difficult friend, Pei, she has to also deal with being bullied at school, parents who have troubles of their own, the arrival of a Great Grandmother who needs to share her bedroom, and a crush on a boy.

Hungry Ghosts is a beautiful novel about issues including displacement, family roles, belonging and more. Sarah deals with these issues herself but also witnesses their impact on others around her, including the ghost Pei, and her family and friends. The story also provides an insight into Chinese settlement in Australia, a topic which many readers would know little about.

Suitable for readers aged 12 and over.

Hungry Ghosts

Hungry Ghosts, by Sally Heinrich
Lothian, 2007

This title can be purchased online from Fishpond.