There’s a definite trend towards books about sports for young readers at the moment. It’s not a new genre, as such, but I suspect with our growing awareness of the importance of having an active lifestyle, more and more books are hitting the market with young sports stars in the lead. I’ve chosen three very different Australian series to showcase here, but don’t panic if your kids’ favourite footy code or weekend pursuit isn’t represented. It’ll surely be out soon!
The thing about sport as a backdrop for fiction is that it opens up discussion about so much more than health and fitness. Team work, competition, friendship, self esteem, tenacity, winning with grace and losing with dignity; the sports field is a metaphor for life that works especially well for young readers.
Netball Gems series by B. Hellard & L. Gibbs
RandomHouse Au RRP: $12.99AUD
Age group: 9+
A lot of girls’ books about sport focus on dance, like the excellent Silver Shoes series I’ve reviewed before. It’s refreshing to come across a series for girls looking at the team sport dynamic and the ‘weekend game’ rituals familiar to so many Australian families. Written in consultation with Netball Australia, these books are bang on when it comes to game play, industry jargon and training regimes.
Like many kids’ series, each book in the series focuses on a different girl and her unique background, skills and challenges. There’s a good range of culturally-diverse characters represented here with problems including being the ‘new kid’ to worrying you’ll never be tall enough to play Goal Attack.
Each book finishes with a ‘player profile’ of the lead character and a selection of game rules, tips and training exercises you can do on your own or with a friend. I can’t think of a better book to read while you’re sitting on the sidelines between games. It would also make a terrific end-of-season gift for team mates. There are 6 in the series currently, with more on the way.
Harry’s Secret by Anita Heiss
Scholastic Au RRP: $9.99AUD
Age group: 8+
Anita Heiss has been writing wonderful books about contemporary Indigenous Australian culture for some time now. Harry’s Secret is the first in a series of early reader chapter books with Indigenous kids in the lead roles. It’s a terrible shame that this fact is remarkable. Like many kids’ series, these books deal with friendship, family and playground politics with humour and pathos – and sport sets the scene.
Harry can hold his own when it comes to skateboarding and footy, but what he really loves to do is draw. The trouble is that art is nowhere near as cool as sport as far as his mates are concerned. Harry needs to prove to them that pursuing your personal passions doesn’t mean you can’t still be friends! But it’s not always so easy to feel ‘different’ from your peers.
These books break some interesting ground by being culturally respectful and inclusive whilst proving that the playground can be awesome and totally frustrating for any Aussie kid. The second book Matty’s Comeback (with a football focus) is out this month.
Tiny Timmy series by Tim Cahill
Scholastic Au RRP: $12.99AUD
Age group: 6+
With easier language than the previous two series, and plenty of comic-style pictures, Tiny Timmy is a light, fun-filled series with plenty of heart. Written by Australian soccer champion Tim Cahill, this is a series for little battlers with big dreams.
Tiny Timmy is not a natural when it comes to football, but he is super keen and willing to practise – eventually becoming a valuable member of his local team, the Lions. Along the way, however, he endures sibling rivalry, a wacky family and plenty of balls put over neighborhood fences in a real celebration of childhood enthusiasm for backyard sport.
The message of each book is to focus on your dreams and work hard if you want to succeed.
A highlight of each book is a cool little flip comic that appears in the bottom corner of each page. Team Charming agree that it’s the best one they’ve seen and truly looks like it’s moving.
It looks like this…