The Beautiful Game by Alan Gibbons

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The Beautiful Game by Alan Gibbons

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Category: Dyslexia Friendly
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: An interesting fact-file about the darker moments in football's glorious history, accompanying a thin narrative – but one that will keep the young fan interested for the right end result.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 72 Date: April 2017
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781781126912

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Football is all about its colours. And even if I write in the season when one team in blue knocks another team in blue from the throne of English football, it's common knowledge that red is the more successful colour to wear. But is that flame red? Blood red? The red of the Sun cover banner when it falsely declared 96 Liverpool FC fans were fatally caught up in a tragedy – and that it had been one of their own making? And while we're on about colour, where were the people of colour in football in the olden days? There are so many darker sides to football's history it's enough to make a young lad question the whole game…

And that's what happens here, or rather our young main character questions his dad and granddad about things. He's at Man U to watch Liverpool defend a two-goal lead in a European cup tie (on a Saturday, mind, which does little for the realism), when both sets of fans pick up on tragedies in their respective histories for insulting chanting. Our lad needs to know why. He needs to know what it felt like to have been at Hillsborough, as his seniors indeed were. He needs to learn about the Bradford fire, and other disasters in football, and the colour bar it instilled on itself in not letting black players represent the team's colours due to their own.

That does make for a thin narrative at times – there's not a heck of a lot of drama here that the reader will return to. It's what you get when the adults are clearly mouthpieces and not much else. I found the dialogue where the characters commentate on the game for each other's sake (even if it's really for our sake) to be very clunky, and chances are by the start of the 2017/18 season some of the names used will have changed team. Yes, this currency and up-to-dateness only helps the book as I read it now, but it will only help date it in a very short while.

It's only good then that we get non-fiction sections of the book – think of them as extended box-outs or multi-paged footnotes at the end of every chapter that cover the historical truths. And these are also up-to-date, although it gets the name of the trophy Chapecoense were travelling for slightly wrong. It's the first time I've seen something that close to full non-fiction from Barrington Stoke, home of the uber-legible font and stocky lemony-yellow paper that makes their well-made books dyslexia-friendly. This one is designed to read as if you had the ability of an eight year old, but to have interests of a 9-year old – meaning it's not as specific as some of their titles. And while the fiction is there just to be a lesson, alongside the actual fact, and while that does mean the book won't completely engage for many a multiple read, it's a perfectly suitable and accessible manner to breach the subject. In double-checking my facts about Chapecoense I find their rivals have already got their new chant – Refuel the plane! No, the ugly colours of the game of football have yet to properly fade. This is a clunky book at times, but a most salutary one.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

I was pleased to see the subject of Walter Tull's Scrapbook by Michaela Morgan listed as one of the coloured pioneers of the game.

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Buy The Beautiful Game by Alan Gibbons at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Beautiful Game by Alan Gibbons at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Beautiful Game by Alan Gibbons at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Beautiful Game by Alan Gibbons at


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