Lynn: I hope this World Cup, despite its many issues, is bringing love of the Beautiful Game to more Americans and bringing a clearer understanding of how it is loved around the world. I know many American children now play soccer on recreational and school teams but the book I am writing about today is about how millions of kids really play the game and what it can mean. Madani’s Best Game (Eerdman’s, 2022) is by Spanish author Fran Pintadera and translated from Spanish.
A young narrator confides the story of his neighborhood team where the best player was the one who could kick the ball the hardest – until Madani arrived. Not only is Madani the best football player anyone has ever seen but he stands out because he plays barefoot. Madani can do everything with a ball: slide it, twirl it, pass it and SCORE! When Madani has the ball, the whole world stops to watch. The team knows Madani has been saving his money. He walks instead of taking the bus, he gives up his afternoon snacks and his tells the team that when he has enough he is going shopping downtown. With an important game coming up, the team hopes his going to buy a pair of cleats. With cleats, Madani would be unstoppable!
I will leave it for you to discover what Madani uses his saved money to buy but the result will melt every reader’s heart.Truly this is the story of a game often played barefoot, on dusty ground or city streets, sometimes with patched balls or balls made of anything available. But wonderfully, this is also a story of a game uniting people from all over, breaking barriers of immigration and poverty. And, it is also a story of love.
Raquel Catalina’s warm illustration are done in pencil, colored pencil and gouache and they beautifully bring the energy and spirit of the story to life. This is a terrific book to read aloud during this World Cup season, or any football season, and to use as a discussion starter.