Captain Fantastic (Football Academy) by Tom Palmer

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Captain Fantastic (Football Academy) by Tom Palmer

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Ex-bully Ryan comes through for a team-mate in crisis as Craig takes his turn at the spotlight in this series about the United U12s. This one looks at how you cope when your dad's not around and you'd very much rather not discuss the reasons why.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 144 Date: January 2010
Publisher: Puffin
ISBN: 0141324724

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Ryan is a changed boy. Since he got into hot water with manager Steve for bullying several books ago, and his captaincy of the United U12s was threatened, he's been determined to get his socks firmly pulled up. He's worked really hard at redeeming himself too - both on and off the pitch. He's more than halfway towards becoming the best captain the team's ever had. So when Craig's attitude suddenly nosedives and he starts playing dirty during games and being insolent during training, Ryan feels a big responsibility to help sort it out.

What's the matter with Craig? Why has he changed so much? And is there anything that can be done?

Craig knows he's struggling. He knows his place at the United academy is at risk if he doesn't sort himself out and soon. But how can he do that when his dad isn't around to help him? And who else can he ask when simply asking would mean that he'd have to say that his dad can't because he isn't around? Discussing why his dad isn't around is something that Craig very much does not want to do.

As the back of the book says, with its now traditional dreadful pun - can Ryan help Craig and stop him being shown the red card?

I do like this little series about football. The kitchen sink drama and the on-park action are nicely balanced so that young sports fanatics and reluctant readers aren't turned off by the worthiness of it all. There's plenty of tactics and tackles and goals and saves, and the underlying message in each book is kindly and gently expressed. This time, it's how to deal with an absent father and a potentially humiliating secret - but, as always, it's also about showing children that to achieve in sport you need a solid background to rely on at least as much as you need a talent.

Captain Fantastic, as the others in the series, is nicely paced, doesn't go on and on forever, doesn't labour its points, and uses effective, straightforward sentence structures. The vocabulary is generally basic but well-chosen and the odd "hard" word is always beautifully placed in context. They're ideal for reluctant readers and I recommend Captain Fantastic to them, along with the rest of the Football Academy volumes.

My thanks to the nice people at Puffin for sending the book.

I've sent you in the direction of more football-related reading when reviewing other books in the series. But if their appetite for reading generally has been whetted by Tom Palmer, but they're still a little reluctant, you could also try The Treasure Keepers by Chris Mould, The General by Robert Muchamore, or Wipe Out by Justin Richards.

Tom Palmer's Football Academy Books in Chronological Order

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Buy Captain Fantastic (Football Academy) by Tom Palmer at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Captain Fantastic (Football Academy) by Tom Palmer at


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