Baller Boys

Hashtag Pr. May 2020. 187p. pap. $16.63. ISBN 9781916286412.
Gr 3-7–Shay and Frankie are best friends and avid footballers (soccer players to North Americans). When they hear about a chance to try out for a local summer rec league, they and their families are excited about the challenge. When Shay makes the main squad and Frankie only scores the development team, their friendship is tested by jealousy, awkwardness, and new friends—but this dream team is in it for the long haul. With the help of loving families, supportive coaches, and those same new friends, not to mention the boys’ good instincts, the protagonists use their football training to grow as both players and people, while having a lot of fun. The novel deliberately features a widely representative cast of characters from a diverse British neighborhood, and Taylor makes sure to include many small details in her characterizations. However, this feel-good, high-energy story suffers from some stilted writing, especially in the dialogue. It also features illustrations which, while livening up the experience for the reader, don’t always match the text (for instance, a character described as having “tight, kinky, dark hair” is pictured with straight hair). These issues don’t ruin the reading experience but can be jarring.
VERDICT A quick and enjoyable read for sports fans, which will speak to many of the experiences and anxieties of young players.

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