Goal! written by Mina Javaherbin and illustrated by A.G. Ford
(Candlewick Press) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library
I remember as a child playing soccer in a backyard. Our goal posts were poles used to hang laundry to dry. When you were outside playing, everything else in the world disappeared. You became immersed in the game and were able to forget any troubles that you might have. This is one of the joys of sport.
Mina Javaherbin captures this spirit with Goal!, which is her first picture book. In a South African township, Ajani is ready to play football (term for soccer outside the U.S.). He has finished his homework and has time to play with his friends before he has to collect water in two buckets. Ajani has won a regulation leather football by being the best reader in his classroom. The friends play in the dirt street, but it is not safe so one friend has to watch from a rooftop for bullies. Left is clear. Right is clear. The friends are involved in playing when bullies come to take away the ball. Quick thinking by Ajani and his friends outwit the bullies and the play continues.
Javaherbin's text and A.G. Ford's illustrations perfectly capture the pace of a soccer game. They also portray life in a South African township with the danger of the streets and the dilapidated buildings in the background. These kids live in poverty, but they don't let it define them. Goal! shows how friendship in sport can be uplifting. You could teach a great lesson on inference using Ford's illustrations. With the FIFA World Cup starting in two weeks, Goal! would be a timely read aloud right now.
For more info, check out this interview with Mina Javaherbin over at the Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog.