Best football books for kids
We’re kicking off the Brazil 2014 World Cup celebrations with a round-up of the best football fiction for kids. From the terraces of Seaburn City to the dusty streets of a Brazilian favela, these football stories will delight and entertain young football fanatics and draw in even the most reluctant reader with the magic of the beautiful game.
Up for the Cup – Simon Bartram
Seaburn City’s star player Julio Poom religiously follows his pre-match good luck ritual of spelling out a message to himself with alphabet spaghetti. The cup final looks doomed when his ritual is sabotaged but can young fan Charlie step in and save the day? Simon Bartram’s illustrations capture the essence of football characters perfectly in this genius book for young football fans which is one of our June children’s bookclub choices.
Maisy Plays Football – Lucy Cousins
Maisie’s back! This time for a game of footy in the park with all her mates. She’s pretty nifty on the ball, even managing to get a ball past Eddie the Elephant. Lucy Cousins once again scores with simply drawn figures and stimulating illustrations which never fail to capture the minutiae of childhood life so perfectly.
Willy the Wizard – Anthony Browne
Former Children’s Laureate Anthony Browne’s obsession with primates is displayed in the series about Willy the chimp who, he says, is based on his childhood self. In this story Willy is desperate to be picked for the football team and when he’s given a pair of football boots from a mysterious stranger things start to look up. Browne’s trademark surreal and dreamy images along with the wonderful story about self-belief is perfect for budding football stars.
Frankie’s Magic Football (World Cup Carnival) – Frank Lampard
When Frank Lampard launched his new series last year it was immediately picked up as one of the Summer Reading Challenge choices. Cynics may sneer and question whether he’s actually written the books but if it takes a footballing hero to inspire young or reluctant readers, so be it! In the latest book, Frankie and his gang face jungle alligators, a Rio carnival and cheating opponents in order to save the World Cup tournament from ruin.
Football Star – Mina Javaherbin
Set in a Brazilian favela, Football Star is a story that will teach young football fans as much about the host country as the beautiful game. Mina Javaherbin’s lyrical text and beautiful illustrations tell the inspiring story of a Brazilian boy who dreams of being a football star, and the sister who steps in to help his team win a game. Perfect World Cup reading for children aged four and over.
Seriously Silly Supercrunchies: Cinderboy – Laurence Anholt
In this re-telling of the Cinderella story, Cinders is a downtrodden boy. His ugly brothers and nasty stepdad get to go to the cup final whilst he’s left behind until the TV Godmother comes along and he gets invited to play. Part of the award winning Seriously Silly stories series which subvert fairy tales and provide laugh out loud moments for readers of all ages. Also perfect in length and layout for younger readers.
Girls FC 1: Do Goalkeepers Wear Tiaras – Helena Pielichaty
Finally! Girls FC fills the gap brilliantly for the ever increasing number of football mad girls aged 7-11 (there are now over 9,000 girls’ teams registered with the FA). The series is narrated by ten-year-old midfielder Jenny-Jane and charts the ups and downs of the Parrs U-11s over two seasons. Each of the books covers a different character as they face a new challenge, both on and off the pitch.
Cool – Michael Morpurgo
This classic Michael Morpurgo story has been perfectly reviewed by Mumsnetter Roisin who says: “Cool is great for footie fans, especially (though not exclusively) Chelsea and Zola fans. But it is fab ‘literature’ too; amazing writing, but not too demanding a read for a reluctant reader. It is also thought provoking, and heart wrenching at times.”
The Big Cup Collection – Rob Childs
With three fabulous football stories in each book, this series should score a hat-trick with football fans aged ten and above. The series follows the trials of the football-mad brothers Chris and Andrew Weston. In this collection, captain Chris has to deal with everything from a penalty shoot-out to a shock sending-off. This is one of a number of footy series from the brilliant Rob Childs. As well as the Big Match Series, younger readers should look out for Great! And Wicked! books.
Skills from Brazil (Jamie Johnson) – Dan Freedman
Mumsnetters have for some time been hardcore Dan Freedman fans, whose Jamie Johnson series has delighted young readers since 2007. His latest offering Skills From Brazil is the prequel to the series of seven titles and is Mumsnet’s July children’s bookclub choice. Action packed and based on Freedman’s real experiences of working in football, this is perfect reading to accompany the excitement of the World Cup.
Over the Line – Tom Palmer
Along with Dan Freedman and Rob Childs, Tom Palmer is definitely in the premier league of children’s authors with an impressive back catalogue of soccer stories. Over the Line is based on the real life story of Huddersfield Town player Jack Cock, who joins the Football Battalion at the start of WW1 and is soon sent over to the trenches of France. To keep up the soldiers’ morale, a football tournament is organised called the Flanders Cup and Jack is selected to play as a striker. A gripping story which which draws on both the horrors of WW1 and the power of football.
The Fix – Sophie McKenzie
A gripping football thriller from award winning YA author Sophie McKenzie. Blake’s the star of the football team, but he and his mum are in trouble – they can’t make the rent and it looks as though they’ll have to move. So when a stranger offers Blake cash to fix the match: miss some goals, earn some cash, pay the rent… If Blake goes along with it, he stands to lose more than just the game. Will he do the right thing? A real page turner that will have preteens and young teens reading late into the night.
Keeper – Mal Peet
One Mumsnetter says: “My biggest hero is Mal Peet. He cunningly disguises [his books] as football stories so teen boys will want to read them but they’re about so much more”. In this case, Keeper is about a Brazilian goalie, but it’s also about deforestation and South America. If they enjoy this there’s two more books in the series, Penalty and 2009 Guardian Children’s Prize for Fiction, Exposure, which is a retelling of Othello through football. Who bets that Iago’s a bit mean on the pitch?