The Kick Off by Dan Freedman

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The Kick Off by Dan Freedman

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: On the surface, this is an approachable and easy-to-read footballing adventure, designed to get boys who'd rather be kicking a ball reading the occasional book. It's great fun and also disarmingly subtle, managing to get in a few important life lessons along the way. Recommended for all parents who despair of finding a book their junior Steven Gerrard will actually want to read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: June 2007
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-0439944304

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Jamie Johnson has just moved schools. He was captain of his previous school's football team and he is desperate to make his mark at Kingfield. Jamie lives and breathes football. He doesn't think of anything else. And he's determined to prove his undoubted ability. For Jamie is talented. Quick, tactically aware and committed, he has the potential to go all the way. But has he got the temperament? Sent off twice in his first two matches at Kingfield, it seems perhaps he hasn't. Jamie doesn't blame himself you see - he blames his mother for making him do his homework, a team-mate for selfish play, an opponent for winding him up. It's always someone else's fault and never Jamie's. Jamie's grandfather, Mike, just might have the answer in a training manual written years ago for him by one of the country's best football scouts...

Author Dan Freedman is the FA's website editor and it's easy to tell that he loves football as much as his potential young readers. The Kick Off is certainly packed full of genuinely useful training and tactical advice, cleverly inserted as part of a manual given to Jamie by his grandfather. It also catches the football-obsessed boy incredibly well, and understands the vital importance of each and every schoolboy match. I could see my intensely competitive son and all his intensely competitive friends in Jamie. They get it wrong, they fly off the handle, they lack self-control but they're basically good kids. They're just hungry.

If this was all The Kick Off had to offer, I'd give it three stars and recommend borrowing from the library rather than buying. It is just the first volume in a series of books about Jamie Johnson, after all. But it isn't all The Kick Off has to offer. It isn't just about football - it explores the need for balance in life, the importance of doing well at school and of treating your friends as they should be treated. It's about family tensions, and even the glimmer of young love. And for Dan Freedman to manage a hint of romance without making my son throw down the book in disgust is more of an achievement than you could possibly imagine. These mini life lessons are subtly and sensibly done though, and they never detract from the main focus of football.

It's an easy book to read. I read it in a couple of hours and it took my son two or three evenings. If they're keen readers already, then The Kick Off might prove too light for them. But for reluctant readers and all junior football fans, it comes highly recommended.

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

Michael Morpurgo's Billy the Kid blends football and war with the story of Billy, a veteran of both Chelsea FC and World War I.

Buy The Kick Off by Dan Freedman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Kick Off by Dan Freedman at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Kick Off by Dan Freedman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Kick Off by Dan Freedman at Amazon.com.


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Magda said:

What age? Would a football and rugby obsessed 7 year old enjoy it if read to him by a parent?

Jill replied:

Yes! The boy is in his second or third year at senior school, but any footballing child would like it.

Maurice Leibman said:

A book at last in the Teddy Lester mold. Could not put them down when I was a kid. Lets hope he writes a lot more, and perhaps we will get another British writer of significance.

Steve Johnson said:

dear jill,

This book is just perfect for football mad kids. I have bought it for my son for christmas, he will love it as his name is Jamie johnson too. His also football mad.

Jill replied:

Ooh, how cool is that? A book about football mad Jamie Johnson for football mad Jamie Johnson!