Rich kid, poor kid : they can be equally passionate about a good game of soccer/football! This book relates the exciting story of how the success of a national soccer team, Bafana Bafana, helped heal the wounds left between Blacks and Whites in the wake of the end of Apartheid in South Africa. In Ottawa, this book is shelved in our 'Special books' collections because it's not just like any ordinary picture book : although it can be read simply for the pleasure of a good story, an adult reading it to children could also go a bit deeper and explain why the Black boy and the White boy couldn't play together.... at first. There are also interesting and helpful historical notes at the end of the book. And it's beautifully illustrated to boot!
One of the most memorable books I've read this year.
This story of Hector's love for soccer is beautifully, poignantly told with the backdrop of a country in its very early post-apartheid day, a country slowly finding its way towards reconciliation. Mandela has left prison and is just newly elected President. Yet Hector is still waiting for the boys across the soccer fence to answer his call. To play soccer with them. Even when their ball crosses over the fence and he sends it back over they don't respond.
Fiction meets real life with the momentum of the African Cup of Nations played in South Africa, of President Mandela's efforts to unite his country across racial lines through a love of soccer, hoping to get them cheering together for their team Bafana Bafana. Cheering happens, and two boys from each side of that soccer fence, Hector and a boy called Chris, find themselves on the same soccer field.
The final illustration is beautiful and the best illustration in any picture book I've seen this year. The fence is on the edge of a page. Behind them.
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