Sarimah has played soccer in both her home in Syria and then in a Turkish refugee camp, honing her skills there with an old soccer ball on a sandy field with any kids she could find. But when her family suddenly moves to Canada, Sarimah is too busy learning English and getting used to the cold Saskatoon winter to think about her favourite game. She is surprised to find that the kids at her school play soccer in the snow, but she feels clumsy and slow in her winter coat and boots. And she doesn't understand why Tamsen, her classmate and star of the girls league team, has decided she doesn't like Sarimah.
But Sarimah finds that playing soccer in the snow is like playing the game in the sand. Her skills win her a place on the league team, even though Tamsen is convinced that the chance is given to Sarimah as charity. Sarimah has to find out if she has what it takes to play organized soccer on an indoor field, to show Tamsen that she deserves a place on the team, and to learn to love her new home as much as she loves the game.
David is a father of three little girls and an award-winning journalist turned author. He's published two middle-grade books for reluctant readers with a third expected in early 2018 for the Sports Stories series through Lorimer Kids and Teens. He enjoys trying to weave classic sports themes of teamwork, dedication, and loyalty alongside more challenging, modern-day topics (like race, culture, and class). It's all in hopes young readers can more easily identify with the characters they might be reading about in his books. When he's not making school lunches, dropping kids at school, picking kids up at school (or gymnastics or ballet or soccer or birthday parties)...he's trying to write and read as much as possible.
This is a great story for middle grades, especially for reluctant readers. The story is about Sarimah, a refugee from Syria who is now living in Saskatoon. Sarimah really wants to fit in with her new classmates as well as become a better soccer player. With a lot of the kids in her grade being soccer fiends, this makes it easier for her to do both. The story talks about the path Sarimah and her family take to get to Canada as well as what they do once they move here (i.e. English classes). There are times when negative and ignorant comments are made to Sarimah about her county, culture and religion and at some points in the story she corrects them and all is well. There were other places where she let it go, but is did make her sad and angry. I think this is a realistic picture of what it is like to be a refugee and would be a great read aloud in a classroom with some great discussions. A good choice for a school or class library. The publisher generally provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley.
I got an ARC in return for an honest review from NetGalley.
I grabbed this book because I love the publisher. I am not a fan of sports, never got into soccer, and never played snow soccer. I read the book in a single sitting, I couldn’t sleep so I turned on my Kindle and read it in an hour, give or take a few minutes. It is a book designed for a younger teen or someone with a lower reading level or someone who isn’t big into books. That was clear, but it didn’t hurt the story for me. It made it better for me. It made the story short and sweet. It wasn’t bogged down with graphic details of every soccer match. It instead allowed for the story to flow.
The story follows Sarimah from a refugee camp to Canada. She is sponsored by a Canadian family. The family just happens to have a young girl the same age of Sarimah who is also obsessed with soccer, so they become best friends. It is through this friend that Sarimah meets the couch to an indoor soccer coach that has a similar past to Sarimah. Sarimah through hard work, determination, and a love of soccer makes a place for herself in Canada.
The story also follows Sarimah’s father. He goes to English lessons and he tries his best to be a good father. He helps Sarimah learn how to play snow soccer and relents to lettering her play indoor soccer. In the end he even helps during a game and makes a place for himself in Canada. It is implied that he becomes an assistant coach of some sort, but it isn’t explicitly said.
I loved that there was discussions about Syria and what it was like before the war, during the war, and the fears for after the war. There are some pretty racist things said by some of the Canadian girls, but they are never addressed. One comment that is racist is said by the best friend, but is correct by Sarimah, which I loved. It allowed for their friendship to get deeper and showed that Sarimah was finally coming into her own. What I wished would have happened is more consequences for the racism. There was literally none. The most racist character in the book does not learn, does not get punished, and pretty much is constantly put with Sarimah. There is also only a very small mention of religion. Sarimah shows her dad that she can still be covered while playing soccer indoors, but that’s it. Her father is clearly religious, but that is pretty much ignored in the story. That felt like an oversight. If there had bee any addressing of the main racist character or of Sarimah’s religion, then I could have given this book a higher rating, but those were such big misses to me that I couldn’t.
There are some books that they give to children to try to encourage them to read books for pleasure. They often are sports themed.
So, this book is perfect for that. It is very sport themed, and gives very detailed play-by-play of what the teams go through when playing soccer. Besides these scenes, there is some very good scenes that show how it is like to be a refugee, and being the other, the outsider.
If, however, you are not into soccer, this book will make you skip paragraphs, and whole pages, to get to the meat of the story, which is soccer. This is not a bad thing, it is just the way it is.
So probably a three star book, for those non-soccer fans out there, but four star for the fans.
Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.