The Real Thing (Football Academy) by Tom Palmer

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The Real Thing (Football Academy) by Tom Palmer

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: More adventures for the young footballers as United travel to Poland. Easy to read and engaging, this one covers bullying and attitudes towards immigration.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 176 Date: July 2009
Publisher: Puffin
ISBN: 0141324694

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Tomasz loves playing for United. He also loves England, although he is sometimes a little homesick for his native Poland. He still supports Legia Warsaw, much to the amusement of United's under-twelves captain, Ryan. Ryan is probably the only real thorn in Tomasz's side. He's loud and aggressive and a bit of a bully, and he's not keen on foreigners - unless they're anything to do with Real Madrid. Ryan never misses an opportunity to mock Tomasz and it's beginning to affect his confidence as goalie.

However, unbeknownst to Tomasz, Ryan has problems of his own. His parents have split and his mother is over-compensating by pushing Ryan to succeed and his father is too busy to bother giving his son anything more than money. So, when the United under-twelves head off to Poland for a European tournament, Tomasz is both excited to visit home and troubled by the tense undercurrents that beset the team.

As the back jacket says, Can Ryan and Tomasz tackle their differences - or will Ryan's bullying foul his chance of success?

You might groan at the dreadful punning, but there are football-mad boys up and down the country who are about as interested in word play - or figures of speech, or dramatic conflict, or books generally, or even reading at all - as they are interested in sewing or the colour pink. And the Football Academy series is speaking to them. It's not all as heavy-handed as that, of course. In fact, the prose is excellent - simple, direct and with a vocabulary that is both accessible and ever-so-slightly stretching.

The main thrust of the story is the football, and the dreams boys who play it have, which is just as it should be. Underlying the derring-do on the park is the issue of bullying, which is familiar to all readers. And the xenophobia Ryan exhibits adds a prod towards thinking about a slightly more subtle issue that flows through other parts of life and not just soccer.

They're no-nonsense stories aimed squarely at reluctant readers, but they're not dull or worthy. They're fun to read and tremendously engaging. Hopefully, they'll ignite an interest and it won't be too long before your junior Cristiano Ronaldo leaves them behind for something more challenging. Mal Peet, perhaps.

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

Young football fans could also look at Runaway Success by S W Parry or The Kick Off by Dan Freedman. Goal! Glory Days by Robert Rigby will also keep them reading. Billy the Kid by Michael Morpurgo might also appeal. Older, more sophisticated readers will love Exposure by Mal Peet.

Buy The Real Thing (Football Academy) by Tom Palmer at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Real Thing (Football Academy) by Tom Palmer at

Buy The Real Thing (Football Academy) by Tom Palmer at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Real Thing (Football Academy) by Tom Palmer at


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