Friday, 17 June 2016

A List Of Great Children's Books About Football - Emma Barnes

Football. You can't escape it. We are one week into the European Championships, which means you are either cheering or cursing: cheering because of the weeks crammed with top flight football games, or cursing because of the relentless media coverage or because of a football fan in your household hogging the couch and the TV.

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.

Old Favourites

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.  

Series Fiction

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.

Girl-Lead Stories

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 or  goodreads.

Younger Reads

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+.

Older Reads

A stand out title is Mal Peet's Keepera 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 

Please recommend your own favourite footballing reads!


JO said...

You've no idea how grateful I am for this - I have a football-mad grandson but have no idea where to begin looking for books for him! You've don't my homework for me!

Cindy Jefferies said...

Good blog Emma! Could I add to the list Stadium School, the four book series my son Seb Goffe and I wrote together with boys and girls playing football together. Seb also wrote Zero to Hero, another football story, which is available as an audio as well as a paper book. Seb and I will be on a panel at Stroud Book Festival in November, talking about what it was like writing the series together. Just don't ask me about the offside rule!

Penny Dolan said...

Good selection, Emma!

@storyvilled said...

Have just done a similar list to tie in with the Euros and have a lot of these–but not yours, Emma, so will look out for it! Booked by Kwame Alexander (who won the Newbery for Crossover) is a novel-in-verse about football (soccer) from a US author that looks good for Year 5/6.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Australian books: the Specky Magee series by Felice Arena, Footy Dreaming and Tyger, Tyger by Michael Hyde. These are about Australian Rules football - and the last-mentioned throws in sightings of the Tasmanian Tiger, an extinct animal people keep saying they have seen. For girls, there's the Gracie Faltrain series by Cath Crowley - those are about a girl playing soccer. Those are the ones that come to mind, but there are plenty more.

Emma Barnes said...

Fantastic to have so many recommendations!
Cindy - will be definitely be getting a copy of Stadium School and I'm really pleased to hear it has girls and boys playing football together, which seems to be something missing from most of the fiction out there. I played "co-ed" soccer myself - as an adult while in the US - and it would be great to see more in fiction.
@storyvilled - the Kwame Alexander title looks really interesting and different from most football/soccer fiction.
Sue - great to hear about these Australian titles.
I will be following all these suggestions up and hope to update the blog post with a more comprehensive list at some point.