Do­ing it for the love of the game


Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - BOOKS -

EX­TRA TIME By Mor­ris Gleitz­man ( Puf­fin, soft­cover, $ 16.99)

THERE is no deny­ing 14- year- old Matt is an ex­traor­di­nar­ily gifted soc­cer player. But in­juries from the car crash that killed his older brothers Pete and Danny, mean he needs to take great care not to put his legs un­der too much stress.

Un­cle Cliff’s wife has left him and now he has no job. This is a fam­ily that has seen enough sad­ness to last a life­time.

But when Matt’s fancy foot­work around a cat­t­le­yard makes it to the news, sud­denly their world is turned up­side down again, but in a very dif­fer­ent way.

This frag­ile boy with metal pins in his legs is cat­a­pulted from a small Aus­tralian coun­try town into the glam­orous world of Bri­tish soc­cer, with the chance to try out for one of the coun­try’s English Pre­mier League clubs.

With younger sis­ter Bridie by his side as his man­ager, Matt gets to see, at close range, a world closed to all but a very se­lect few.

But it isn’t long be­fore Matt and Bridie re­alise the money and pres­tige mean noth­ing in a club that places so much pres­sure on its pro­teges that the most im­por­tant thing has been lost: the beauty and plea­sure of sim­ply play­ing the game.

For kids who love soc­cer as much as they do, this is a dev­as­tat­ing sit­u­a­tion, and to­gether, they find a way to bring kind­ness and joy back to the club.

Gleitz­man re­ally gets kids. He ob­vi­ously cher­ishes their in­nate wis­dom and pow­ers of per­cep­tion, and in this en­gag­ing and en­joy­able story, he has the reader cheer­ing this fam­ily on from the side­lines, whether they’re in­ter­ested in “the beau­ti­ful game” or not.

SMOOCH AND ROSE By Sa­man­tha Wheeler ( UQP, soft­cover $ 14.95)

WHEN Rose and her gran save a baby koala whose mother has been killed by dogs, Rose en­vis­ages a life of con­tent­ment and safety among the trees on their strawberry farm for him, un­der her watch­ful eye. But the bank is de­mand­ing pay­ments Gran can no longer make, and Un­cle Mal­colm is pres­sur­ing his mother to sell the farm to de­vel­op­ers.

It’s not un­til the bull­doz­ers start mov­ing in that Rose re­alises she has to fight for the things that are most pre­cious to her. A quiet girl who is bul­lied at school and doesn’t per­form well aca­dem­i­cally, Rose is the last per­son any­one ( her­self least of all) would ex­pect to be able to make a dif­fer­ence in the world. But with sup­port and courage, Rose pushes her­self out­side of her com­fort zone to try to pro­tect the ever- dwin­dling koala habi­tat.

De­spite a few in­stances of mis­used words, this is a nicely writ­ten story that car­ries a strong mes­sage about the pos­si­bil­ity of de­vel­op­ment oc­cur­ring that is sym­pa­thetic to the en­vi­ron­ment, if only peo­ple are will­ing to lis­ten, learn and be a lit­tle flex­i­ble.

More than that, though, it is an em­pow­er­ing and in­spir­ing story that demon­strates very spe­cial things can be achieved by the most seem­ingly pow­er­less of peo­ple.

THE WISHBIRD By Gabrielle Wang ( Puf­fin, soft­cover, $ 14.99)

ORI­OLE is a hu­man girl raised by Mel­low, an an­cient wishbird. She has spent her whole life in a beau­ti­ful, peace­ful for­est, know­ing only gen­tle­ness, kind­ness and bird­song.

How­ever, far, far away lies the King­dom of Pafir, where the ruler is bound to the wishbird by a mag­i­cal thread. But the king has turned his back on his peo­ple, cut­ting down all the trees, killing all the birds and ban­ning all mu­sic.

The city of Soul­less is un­der threat of invasion by a bar­bar­ian army and, be­cause of all this, the thread that binds the king to the wishbird is grad­u­ally weak­en­ing. When it breaks, both will die. Only Ori­ole has the chance to save her beloved Mel­low.

To do so, she needs to leave the tran­quil­lity and safety of her for­est home and make her way to Soul­less, the walled city de­void of all joy and hope.

There she meets a young thief named Boy and to­gether, they try to find a way to de­feat the king’s power- hun­gry Lord Chan­cel­lor and save both the city and the wishbird.

This beau­ti­ful, lyri­cal story is a Chi­nese fairy­tale of sorts, filled with dan­ger, love, loss, tragedy, hope, dis­cov­ery and magic.

HOW TO BABYSIT A GRAN­DAD By Jean Rea­gan, il­lus­trated by Lee Wild­ish ( Hachette, soft­cover, $ 14.99)

A WARM, funny, how- to book that cel­e­brates the spe­cial bond be­tween chil­dren and their grand­par­ents. It’s also par­tic­u­larly good for chil­dren who don’t like their par­ents go­ing out with­out them, as it car­ries the mes­sage that they will al­ways come back but in the mean­time, there’s plenty of fun to be had.

It also comes up with some great ideas for how adults can play with chil­dren and en­gage with them at their level to en­sure they feel safe, happy and en­joy their time with their spe­cial older per­son.

Adorable il­lus­tra­tions add to the charm of this pic­ture book that would make a great gift from a gran­dad, or even for one.

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