Goal, written by Mina Javaherbin and illustrated by A. G. Ford, does a wonderful thing: it embraces its setting and the culture of its characters withGoal, written by Mina Javaherbin and illustrated by A. G. Ford, does a wonderful thing: it embraces its setting and the culture of its characters without preaching about them or other-izing them. Goal tells the story of a group of boys in a South African shantytown who, during a game of street soccer (called in the story, like it is in South Africa, ‘football’), escape the wrath of the town bullies, and manage to hang on to their “federation-sized football” for another game.
Javaherbin’s lyrical rhythmic text captures the speed and joy of the boys’ soccer game (“When we play,/we feel strong….We kick. We dribble. We run/after our brilliant ball.”) Javaherbin also includes in the main text and in an author’s note, the sense that soccer is truly a global game. “I follow the ball to end of the alley,” says the narrator. “I follow the ball to the end of the world.”
Ford’s sun-saturated oil illustrations shift perspective throughout the story. Often, the viewer acts as another player in the game: the soccer ball zooms out of the page and toward the reader, or the reader looks over another player’s shoulder. The depth of the illustrations, which often feature an object or character, in the immediate foreground, draw the reader in to the story and complement the immediacy of Javaherbin’s present-tense text.
Both the text and illustrations acknowledge the reality of life in a shantytown without emphasizing it to the point of distraction from the text. One of the boys has only flip-flops instead of tennis shoes; all of the boys wear torn or dirty t-shirts and shorts, and their soccer field is a dusty alley with buckets set up to mark the goals. The improvised buildings that make up the shantytown feature pieced together walls and corrugated aluminum roofs. But none of this poverty is depressing, at least not in the context of the story. Rather, it serves as a realistic background for a story that’s about friendship, football, and bullies more than cultural differences. A great edition to any collection, especially in a World Cup year! ...more
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