The Kick Off
London, Scholastic, 2007, 172p
It is not often that I enjoy books about sport. Often, the jargon makes me loose interest, and I struggle to relate to the characters. But with Dan Freedman's series, football is made interesting.
The Kick Off is about Jamie Johnson's dream to be part of the first team at school. Unfortunately, he has a terrible time at the end of term trials, so commits himself to spending the whole summer improving his skills.
What is particularly nice about this series is the fact that the football plot is not the only thing going on in Jamie's life. He is struggling to focus at school, and with slipping grades, his mum stops him from spending all his time at the park practicing football. Also, he has managed to offend his best friend, and cannot work out how to make amends. Jamie is like any teenage boy - he has a big heart, but sometimes forgets how to use it.
Freedman makes Jamie's ambitions into something that anyone can relate to - he could have just as easily written about a boy who wanted to be an astronaut or a girl who wanted to be the Prime Minister. Football jargon is avoided, so the matches come to life through a more simple use of language. Jamie's ambition is endearing and consuming. Of course, these books are aimed to engage those more reluctant boy readers, but the themes are universal, so could be attractive to many young readers.