Goal! by Mina Javaherbin

goalCindy: “Left is clear/Right is clear. The streets are not safe here.” Ajani and his friends keep a careful eye out for bullies who threaten their football game, but the game must go on in this moving picture book, Goal! (Candlewick, 2010). The boys are thrilled with Ajani’s new leather federation-size ball that he earned as top reader in his class, happily ditching the old plastic ball for the real thing. But the danger of losing the prized possession lurks (left is clear/right is clear) and the boys keep watch until the game heats up and their guard lets down.

I can’t think of another book that so succinctly and simply portrays the power of sports to unite and uplift. Javaherbin’s story is gorgeously illustrated by A. G. Ford’s oil paintings. The double page spreads of shanty homes and shifting perspectives of the game in action illuminate this South African neighborhood. The bright blue skies and the victorious young faces leave the reader with the hope that by playing (and working) together, we will overcome.

Lynn: A.G. Ford’s terrific ball’s eye view cover is a sure bet to pull in every young soccer fan who sees it. The story inside will open the eyes of American kids used to playing a highly organized game on green fields with ample equipment. That a ball could be so valuable and a game so risky is far from the experiences of most of the children who play the game in the US. Javaherbin’s story wonderfully conveys the passion the rest of the world feels for football as well as the conditions much of the world lives in – a fabulous sports book and so much more.

I’ve mentioned before that my husband had a three-year European stint with his company and in the memorable summer of 1998 we lived in France. The town we lived in, Nantes, was a regional stadium for the French-hosted World Cup. Ask me sometime if you’re are interested, to tell you about what it was like to be in France the year they won the World Cup. As a long -time soccer fan, I will never forget my train trip from Paris to Nantes to join my husband for that summer with a train full of young Brazilian soccer fans. They had come all the way to Nantes to camp outside the stadium, hoping to buy a ticket for any of regional games. I always worried on that trip that I would fall asleep, miss my transfer and wake up who knows where but that trip those charming young men kept me awake all the way to Nantes talking soccer the whole way.

But back to Goal…a wonderful book about a wonderful sport at the perfect time.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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  1. “Goal!”: Right On Time | Mighty Writers | July 12, 2010

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