Free Kick (Football Academy) by Tom Palmer

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Free Kick (Football Academy) by Tom Palmer

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: More of the same for boys who prefer footie to reading. The series isn't losing focus or strength and this is one time when rinse and repeat doesn't make Bookbag sigh.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: September 2009
Publisher: Puffin
ISBN: 0141324716

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James has a difficult choice to make - will he remain onside or kick the ball into touch for good?

Oh. My. Word. It's the fifth instalment in the Football Academy series and Tom Palmer has spoken the unspeakable (or written the unwritable, or something, you know what I mean). Could it be? Could it actually be? A member of the United Under 12s team is having second thoughts about a career in football? Prefers something else? It's a shocker, isn't it? And I'm not talking about the commentator-spoofing pun.

But it's true.

James, whose father Cyril once played for England and scored the winning goal in an FA Cup final, wants out. But he has no idea how to tell his dad, who's going to be crushed.

I think this is a rather nice way of pointing out to soccer-obsessed little boys that the game, glorious as it is, isn't the be-all and end-all in life. James does enjoy football; it's just that he prefers something else and the commitment United are asking for is that little bit too much. He has another dream and he wants to pursue it. However, the fear of disappointing others looms large in his mind and he does what many children do when they're under this sort of internal pressure - he doesn't come clean; he misbehaves.

Of course, it all works out in the end, but only after we've had some satisfying action on the park and a little bit of lesson-learning. Bookbag tries to avoid endless series where it can. There are far too many excellent books for children being published every week to spend time and webspace on the same old characters and plots being rehashed over and over. It makes an exception for Football Academy though. The series is gradually working its way through the entire United Under 12s squad, and each of them has an individual tale to tell both within and without the game itself. We've had illiteracy, immigration and bullying and we've also had lots of penalties, fouls and free kicks.

It's all tied into a narrative perfectly pitched for the slow or reluctant reader. It's not too demanding but it holds a steady line in differentiating right from wrong and it gently directs sport-obsessed young minds into other trains of thought.

This one is, as ever, highly recommended for its target group.

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

Eventually, they will get too big for this series. When they do, and if they are still equally reluctant to spend much time reading, show them the Blade series by Tim Bowler. It's nothing at all to do with sport, but it's short, punchy, and utterly addictive.

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

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


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