Goal by Mina Javaherbin Illustrated by AG Ford
"Uplifting and Inspiring…" --Archbishop Desmond Tutu
In a dusty township in South Africa, Ajani and his friends have earned a brand-new, federation-size soccer ball.
They kick. They dribble. They run. They score. These clever boys are football champions! But when a crew of bullies tries to steal their ball, will Ajani and his friends be able to beat them at their own game?
School Library Journal-
Gr 2–4&mdashSix boys in a small South African town thwart a group of bullies who threaten to stop their soccer game by stealing their prize possession, a federation-size ball. The camaraderie of these youngsters is evident as they play soccer after chores and homework are done in order to find some relief from daily hardships. The bullies arrive suddenly on bikes, even though the boys had planned ahead and posted a lookout atop a nearby building. The author uses repetitive phrasing, "Left is clear. Right is clear," to indicate that the youth are always aware that the streets are not safe. Illustrations rendered in oil are impressive. Large and colorful action shots, many full spread, keep the story moving at a quick pace. Expressive facial features emphasize the tension felt when the hoodlums interrupt the soccer fun. Choose this book with an international bent to supplement other books on bullying, because it will open up another opportunity for conversation and discussion.&mdashBlair Christolon, Prince William Public Library System, Manassas, VA
In her debut picture book, Javaherbin crisply relays a simple story that should strike a chord with a wide range of readers. In a barren South African village, Ajani calls for his friends to come out to play soccer. The boy carries the pristine federation-size ball (which he won for being the best reader in class) in a dented pail he'll later use to fetch water. Ford's (Barack) dramatically lit oil paintings convey Ajani's excitement and pride about his new acquisition (“We are real champions, playing with a real ball”). He and his friends are also wary of bullies who roam the streets, and one boy stands guard on a rooftop. When the mean boys arrive, Ajani surreptitiously kicks the soccer ball into the overturned bucket and the oblivious bullies instead steal an old plastic ball nearby, barking, “No playing soccer here or you'll be sorry.” While the level of danger&mdashand deprivation&mdashthese boys face may be unfamiliar to many American readers, the quick-moving soccer action, tension, and triumph over the common threat of bullies have near-universal appeal. Ages 6-10. (Apr.)