Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Breakaway Features Exciting Girls' Soccer
There are a number of sports books out there and many of them are really good. Adult writers Mike Lupica and John Feinstein both have done fantastic sports fiction for kids. Former NFL player Tim Greene brings some current sports events like performance enhancing drugs down to the middle school level in his books. Of course there's always Matt Christopher who was one of my favorites growing up, his books still work with kids today.
The problem I have had is finding sports books for girls, sure, they can read the authors I mentioned above. The John Feinstein books even have a teen female main character who works with a teen male to solve mysteries surrounding major sporting events, but very few of them actually put the girls on the field in the middle of the action like they do the boys. So I was pretty excited to read Breakaway by Andrea Montalbano and can't wait to introduce it to the many female athletes in my school.
Lily James (LJ) is the star of her soccer team. She is the go to girl and everyone knows it. Her dream is to go as far as soccer will take her, ultimately, the World Cup. Her best friend Vee is on the team and Vee is a great team player, she does what it takes to make her team mates look good and win. Vee also lives in a neighboring town and attends a different middle school so she is a bit of an outsider with the rest of the girls on the team. She and LJ have a bond based on a long time family friendship. Their dads run a restaurant together and the girls are practically sisters.
LJ's family isn't the same as the other girls' either. Both parents have jobs that may not pay a lot, but bring great pleasure to their lives. LJ's mom is a butterfly scientist and travels a lot for work. This means that LJ and her brother may not get everything the other kids have, but they know their parents love them. I like the message!
In the big game against the cross town rivals LJ's coach informs the team that the scout from the state travel all star team will be there. Of course everyone knows that he's coming to watch LJ and it goes to her head. During the game she is force to play goalie in the first half, even though it's not her best position. In the second half she is put back to striker and decides that she is going to single handedly win the game, thereby making the all star team and her soccer dreams will come true. Of course that's not how it plays out and it is actually Vee who gets noticed and invited to join the team.
This is where the author brings in more story lines about friendship, loyalty, jealousy and other issues faced by middle school girls. There is even a story line with the local football star getting jealous about the attention the girls' soccer team receives. As the parent of a former female soccer player, I wish this would actually happen, but the reality is it doesn't. I still had a smile on my face as I read it!
Overall the book is well done, Montalbano is a former collegiate soccer player from Harvard, so she knows the game. Her descriptions of the on the field action are exciting and precise and accurate. So much so that as a former soccer parent I was on the edge of my seat and into the action. I think the girls will like the story that goes with the soccer and I can see this book being very popular with my 4th and 5th grade students.