I've no doubt Sam, in my book Sam and the Griswalds, would have been revelling in it. Sam is passionate about football and desperate to be in the school team. It feels just the right time for Sam and the Griswalds to be back in a new edition in print (and e-book) with a striking new cover.
I've always thought there is a lack of football in children's fiction – curious given that a) so many kids (particularly boys) are passionate about the sport and b) it has so much inherent drama. It's a team game, full of potential triumph and disaster. It's a game of skill and also of luck. The relationships within the team (and the rivalries between teams) can be as tense and changeable as the action on the field. And there's plenty of room for comedy too.
Because I don't remember many footie reads, I've been asking around for recommendations old and new for this post.
My own favourite fictional football matches probably featured poor Darbishire acting as linesman in the game against Bracegirdle while trying to take photos for Form Three Times (Jennings and Darbishire by Anthony Buckeridge), or being a goalie but hanging his specs on the net for safety and then wondering why he didn't save any goals.
My husband fondly remembers Striker by Kenneth Cope. Based on a children's TV series, it tells the tale of a talented boy footballer whose dad won't let him play because he himself suffered serious injury as a professional. Then there is The Goalkeeper's Revenge by Bill Naughton - the favourite story of children's author Andy Seed, part of a collection with a distinctive Lancashire setting. (Warning: only the title story is football-related.) Others remember Michael Hardcastle's "Mark Fox" books, like In the Net - a whole series based around football.
These days, there seems to be far more choice for young football-addicts. This is a brief look at the just some of what is available.
Tom Palmer is a bit of an sports writing specialist, and has written several football series. Football Academy is described by it's author as "about a Premier League under-twelve side – about what it’s like to play the game at the top". (Some of his other titles blend football with historical settings.)
Then there are Dan Freedman's popular Jamie Johnson books which are currently being made into a TV series.
The TJ books by Theo Walcott feature the adventures of TJ, who begins as a new boy at Parkview School, where he plays his part in the creation of a brilliant football team.
When I was growing up there weren't any books about girl footballers (I chose to write a football book because I had actually played the sport as an adult, not because I had grown up reading about it). Thankfully this has changed. In Helena Pielachty's Girls FC series, each book follows a particular member of a girls' football team.
Narinder Dhami has written The Beautiful Game series and, for older readers, Bend it like Beckham (a novelisation of the successful film).
If you have a football loving girl reader in the UK, then it's worth remembering that in the US football (or rather soccer) is primarily a woman's sport - consequently there are far more girl-oriented soccer books for young readers. Have a browse on Amazon.com or goodreads.
Dave Cousin's Charlie Merrick's Misfits series is told in comic strip format and, as with many football books, has a strong emphasis on friendship.
Frank Lampard's Frankie's Magic Football series combines football and - yes - magic! The first book involves a game of football with pirates and is aimed at 5+.
A stand out title is Mal Peet's Keeper, a multi award-winning book. It blends the supernatural into a tale of a boy learning to be goalkeeper - all recounted as part of an interview in later life to a journalist, and set in Latin America. Peet has also written The Penalty.
Bali Rai has written two football stories : Dream On and sequel Game On, for Barrington Stoke - a publisher which specialises in producing texts for less fluent readers. "While Baljit shovels chips in is dad's chippy, he dreams of football stardom. Then the chance of a lifetime comes along - a trial for the Premier League."
More Sources of Information
- Here the Guardian's book doctor column discusses footballing books for girls.
- A blog post by MinervaReads reviews some recent footballing titles
- Dave Cousins chooses his eleven favourite football tales.