In honor of the United States Woman’s team inspiring 2019 World Cup win, we thought we would focus on a soccer-themed book in today’s blog. GOAL, written by Mina Javaherbin with illustrations from A.G. Ford, tells a story of friendship and football (or soccer here in the U.S.). The story follows a young South African boy named Ajani, who has just been awarded a brand new soccer ball for being the top reader in his class. Ajani and his friends are used to playing with old, plastic, used soccer balls that barely roll. Nothing like his new leather ball, which is just like balls the professionals play with.

Ajani calls for his friends, but not before checking both left and right down the street for bullies. He says, “the streets are not always safe,”  a sad reality his friends and him live with. The group of friends picks teams, set up the field, and must also draw sticks to see who will keep watch from a rooftop.  Badu is picked, and the rest of the boys begin their game. Action packed with visually striking illustrations, the boys play with joy until a group of bullies rides up on bikes, catching them unaware. Ajani manages to hide his brand new soccer ball under a bucket right before they see it, and the bullies are none the wiser.

GOAL tells the story of friendship and delivers a message about the power of sports. LitART appreciates that Ajani won his brand new soccer ball from being the top reader in his class, but we also recognize that children need to get outside and play. The book provides an opportunity to explore with young readers ideas about different parts of the world, about how lucky we are to have the things we do, and how coming together with friends for activities is so important.

Again, it also gives us the option to connect the theme of soccer to the incredible run the U.S. Women’s National team recently made, winning the 2019 World Cup in France amid political and economic attacks. Despite the success of our Women’s National Team, they make far less than their male counterparts, a fight they have not backed down from both on and off the pitch.

The LitART curriculum has numerous activities, discussions, and ideas that would work well this book. Due to the various characters and the emphasis on group friendship in the book, we suggest using the character reading strategy with GOAL. Readers take on the roles of the narrator and different characters, while reading aloud their individual parts. Consider including actions to go along with the character’s movements as they play soccer.

Check out Mina Javerbin’s website here, to get more information on GOAL and her other novels.