7 football books that are about even more than the beautiful game

Published on: 10 May 2021 Author: Priscilla Mante

Author Priscilla Mante shares some fantastic books for children that just happen to be about football (among other things) – perfect for every child, whether soccer-mad or not! 

Priscilla Mante, author of Jaz Santos Vs. The World

If you love football the way I do, it’s easy to see the appeal of football books that capture the highs and lows of the world’s most popular sport. However, my favourite football books for children tackle much more: they explore issues ranging from friendship and family upheaval to discrimination and financial hardship.

Like Jaz in my debut Jaz Santos vs the World, the protagonists of these stories have more than one goal as they chase their dreams…

1. Bend it Like Beckham by Narinder Dhami

This book adaptation of the British film Bend it Like Beckham follows the exploits of super-talented Jess who excels on the football pitch but has to hide it from her parents, who disapprove of her football ambitions. Jess battles sexism, as well as cultural stereotypes and expectations in the pursuit of her goals. This is such an entertaining book, filled with vivid football scenes and witty dialogue.

2. The Kick Off (Jamie Johnson #1) by Dan Freedman

Jamie’s football prowess made him popular at his old school, and he is determined to be a star player at his new school, where he struggles to fit in. So, when things go wrong for him at the football trials, he becomes even more desperate to be successful next time. I loved the close relationship between Jamie, whose dad has walked out, and his Grandad Mike. I found Jamie’s dedication and commitment to making the team so inspiring and you can’t help but root for this relatable and likeable character. This first title in the Jamie Johnson series is an immersive and engaging read that will appeal to even the most reluctant of readers!

Read the review of The Kick Off

3. Scouted (Roy of the Rovers #1) by Tom Palmer

Star striker Roy Race dreams of playing for professional team Melchester Rovers – so when he sees they are looking for players, he’s determined to catch the eye of a football scout. Roy is also a young carer who juggles his dream with the tough realities of home life. His dad suffered from loss of speech and paralysis post brain-surgery, and his mum works long hours to support the family. This is a wonderful and exciting story about family and football inspired by the original 1950s comic strip Roy of the Rovers.

4. Football Star by Mina Javaherbin, illustrated by Renato Alarcao

Paulo dreams of becoming a football star and escaping his life of poverty. His all-boys neighbourhood team don’t think that girls can play football, but when one of his teammates is injured, the only chance they have of succeeding is if his sister Maria steps in to save the day. This beautifully illustrated picture book provides an insight into life within a Brazilian favela and will inspire young girls to be the hero of their stories.

5. Booked by Kwame Alexander

I think this is the first football book I’ve come across that is written in verse and and I love how it shows a young footballer’s discovery of the power of words. Twelve-year-old Nick loves football but, unlike his linguist father, hates books. The poetic tale explores the emotions and experiences of a young boy as he navigates family upheaval, bullying and his first crush.

Read the review of Booked

6. Beyond Lucky by Sarah Aronson

The book is about Ari, a young boy preparing for his bar mitzvah, who loves soccer and also happens to be very superstitious. After Ari comes across a rare trading card of his football hero Wayne Timcoe, and he is picked as goalie for the team, he’s certain that the card has brought him luck. When the card goes missing, players on his team begin to lose trust and accuse each other, and Ari finds himself struggling to save goals. This story explores friendship, faith and what it means to be a hero.

7. Cinderboy by Laurence Anholt, illustrated by Arthur Robbins

Cinderboy has his heart set on attending the cup final, but his dreams are crushed when his stepdad takes his two lazy stepbrothers and leaves him behind. Then Cinderboy’s TV godmother appears – can she get Cinderboy to the cup final and will his team win? An amusing and absurdly funny retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale.

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