Warm up for the World Cup with some children's books about the beautiful game. We've rounded up our favourites, from poetry to picture books. There's sure to be something here to interest your young soccer fan.
My son, now 12, has read and recommends all of these titles. If you have a favourite that's not on the list, please share in the comments. We'd love to know about it.
Kwame Alexander's Booked is an immensely approachable novel-in-verse about a teen who loves soccer, hates reading, and is coping with his parents’ separation. This coming-of-age story is told through poems of varying styles. Poetry has never been this cool! Read our post about it here. (Age: 10+)
Striker, Starting Eleven and The Beautiful Game tell the story of Cody, a boy who had a tumour removed from his leg. He is determined to recover and pursue his love of soccer. David Skuy's series is powerful and inspiring. (Ages 9+)
Football Academy by Tom Palmer follows a group of boys selected to Manchester United's under-twelve team. It's a fast-paced, six-part series perfect for ages 7 and up. Read our post about it here.
Suarez, Neymar, Rooney and Sanchez—these are just a few of the players in Matt and Tom Oldfield's Ultimate Football Heroes. This series tells the stories of real-life soccer superstars, from the playground to the pitch. (Ages 8+)
Bali Rai's Soccer Squad follows Dal, Jason, Chris and Abs—a group of friends who play for the Rushton Reds. The first book begins with the friends trying out for a youth team, and subsequent books follow their football journey together. This is a fantastic, action-packed series. (Ages 8+)
The Wild Soccer Bunch is a group of soccer-loving friends who form their own team. Each book in this popular middle-grade series by Joachim Masannek focuses on a different player. Kids will love the sense of humour, football storylines, and realistic friendships. (Ages 8+)
What happens when a star player ends up on the worst team? In Mike Lupica's Shoot-Out, Jake learns that being a good captain means assisting off the field as much as scoring on it. (Ages 8+)
Matt Christopher has written many exciting, stand-alone sports novels for middle-graders. Dylan has read Soccer Hero, Soccer Duel, and Soccer Scoop. (Ages 8+)
Football Mad is fun collection of four stories sure to please any young reader that loves soccer. (Ages 7+)
Rich Wallace's Kickers follows nine-year-old Ben and his team, the Bobcats. There's lots of footy action to keep readers turning the pages. (Ages 6+)
In Soccer on Sunday, the popular Magic Treehouse series takes Jack and Annie to the 1970 World Cup in search of Pelé. (Ages 6+)
Lisa Wheeler's Dino-Soccer picture book features footy-playing dinosaurs, colourful illustrations, and irresistible rhymes. It’s a combination sure to please the youngest of soccer fans.
Note: Most of our books have boys as the main character. Please see this fabulous list from A Mighty Girl for titles about girls who play soccer.
When it comes to books about soccer, Dylan has read all kinds—picture books, chapter books, novels, graphic novels and biographies. Now, thanks to author Kwame Alexander, he can add poetry to the list.
We had been browsing the aisles of Powell's Books in Portland looking for something new for Dylan to read when one of the staff handed him a copy of Alexander's Booked.
“You might like this,” she suggested.
When I realized it was a novel in verse, I hesitated. Dylan is not always adventurous about new or challenging books, and I wasn’t sure poems would interest him.
That’s when I learned an important lesson: don’t assume you know what your child wants to read.
“Sure, I’ll try it,” he said, persuaded by the image of the soccer player on the cover.
A few days later, Booked was still on his shelf. I asked him about it, assuming he hadn't tried it.
“Oh, I finished it. It was good,” he said.
He read a book of poems in less than two days? And he liked it? I had to pick up Booked myself, out of curiosity. It was so mesmerizing that I finished it in one sitting.
Booked is about 12-year-old Nick Hall, who loves soccer, hates reading, and is coping with his parents’ separation. He's also struggling to deal with bullies and his first crush. It’s an ordinary coming-of-age story, but told in an extraordinary way.
His journey unfolds through poems of varying styles. The poems are fast-paced, rhythmic, and thoughtful. They’re funny, provocative, and heartbreaking. Even the choice of typeface, font and layout makes them visually engaging on the page. The book is a vibrant celebration of words.
In an interview with Reading Rockets, Alexander explained the appeal of this form of writing.
“Poetry is like the human soul entire distilled into very few words and they’re power packed. You can get a whole beginning, middle, and end in 10 lines,” he said. “Poetry, because of the language we choose, because of the metaphors we use, we can make the reader feel something pretty powerful in those few words.”
For example, this poem reflects Nick's pain over his mother moving out of the house:
It does not take
a math genius
to understand that
when you subtract
from the equation
Alexander cleverly uses sport to entice readers to discover poetry. It's effective. Having broadened his reading horizons, Dylan has now added two more of Alexander's novels in verse to his reading list: the Newbery Medal-winning The Crossover, and the just-published sequel Rebound.
Poems can be intimidating for some, but Booked is immensely approachable, and shows us how cool poetry can be.
Ever since he was a toddler, Dylan has loved soccer. He plays soccer, watches soccer, and reads about it. I've stocked his shelves with fiction and non-fiction about the sport, and he's devoured most of the books I've given him. If your kids are passionate about something, you now have a sure-fire way to get them to read!
One of his all-time favourite chapter books is Football Academy by Tom Palmer. Perfect for readers aged 7-10, this six-part series centres around a group of boys selected to Manchester United's under-twelve team. It's a premise that will appeal to many young soccer players and athletes. This is also a good series for reluctant readers.
Football Academy is filled with plenty of on-field action such as training and games, but the books aren't just about what happens on the pitch. We also see how the boys navigate the day-to-day challenges of school, family, and friends; all while following their dreams. Wholesome and engaging, these books explore timeless themes that kids can relate to.
We meet Yunis, who wishes his father was more supportive of his soccer endeavours (Striking Out). There's Ben, who is hiding the fact that he can't read or write (Reading the Game). Tomasz is bullied by Ryan, the team captain (The Real Thing), and Craig is dealing with the fact that his father is in prison (Captain Fantastic). Jake is worried he's not good enough to be on the team (Boys United), while James only plays football because it's his dad's dream (Free Kick). Each book focuses on a different character, and supporting characters in one book become fully fleshed out in another.
When Dylan was younger, he read Football Academy many times. In fact, he enjoyed the books so much, he wanted to share them with the rest of the family. During a summer road trip when he was nine, he read Boys United out loud to us as the miles whipped by outside the car.
After we returned home, he and I continued reading the books at bedtime. He was at an age where we hadn't read together for awhile, so I was grateful to curl up with him amongst the pillows to immerse ourselves together in a book. For that, I thank Tom Palmer!
Books in series: 6
Football Academy: Boys United
Football Academy: Striking Out
Football Academy: The Real Thing
Football Academy: Reading the Game
Football Academy: Free Kick
Football Academy: Captain Fantastic
Two kids, two cats, and a house full of books. We share our favourite picks for young readers.