The world’s most popular sport is football (soccer) with billions of watching fans around the globe and played by millions from a very young age. The football season in the UK maybe drawing to an exciting finale for this season but children will have a summer of playing the wonderful game and, even better, reading about AC United in the second book of the Baller Boys series by Venessa Taylor – the Baller Boys are back in Baller Boys vs The Bulldozers.
AC United, or to give them their full name All Cultures United Football Club, are an all-inclusive football club based in North London. All are welcome to try out for the team, no matter what your race, colour, religion, gender or disability, if you’re good enough then you get to be on the team. In Baller Boys vs The Bulldozers the once all boys team gets a new player for the new season, a very skilful footballing girl.
AC United is made up of Shay, Frankie, Tandeep, Blessing, Troy, Maxwell, Hassan, Jamie, Oscar and new arrival, Ashleigh. They play for the under 10s team. You can find out more about the characters, as well as their coaches Coach Reece, Coach Joe and Coach Kaan on the Baller Boys website here.
With a new season comes new problems. A lot of the players are not too happy with a girl joining their team (some are more receptive than others), causing anxiety about competition for starting places. The team also has to worry about the bulldozers coming in when the council wants to sell their pitch and clubhouse to developers for housing. It’s going to be a very worrying season.
As well as any on-field issues there are the individual off-field problems revolving around change, jealousies and insecurities.
With the makeup of their team changing, change in friendships and the thought of losing their pitch and clubhouse, the team have a lot to deal with as well as trying to win their matches.
Overall, this is a very good easy to read chapter book that children aged 7+ will enjoy reading (and hopefully encourage the football-loving reluctant readers to read). It is a book not only about football and the issues between players, but it is also a story of individual issues that the players face in their personal lives that young readers will be able to relate to.
With a very diverse cast of characters that cover a variety of different races, gender, disabilities and personal issues the book deals with a lot of issues in an understated way, focusing more on the football and the togetherness of the team. Whilst football and the saving of the club is the focus of the book, it deals with issues of anxiety, insecurities and prejudices in a very positive way, in a way that will keep football-loving readers enthralled in the story.
The characters all feel quite real with personal and team issues that young readers will be able to relate to.
The introduction of a new female player to the team is excellent and well-written, showing the very real issues around inclusivity and acceptance. It doesn’t just show a girl joining the team and everything being fine but shows real issues that children and society in general face and having stereotypical thinking challenged and accepted.
Whilst the book is about football it also shows very real problems that children worry about, mostly centred around change. Shay is worried about losing his place on the team when a new member joins, Frankie is worried about having to move house, leave the team and his friends after overhearing a conversation between his parents but too anxious to discuss it with them, the team is worried about where they will play football if the pitch and clubhouse is sold and will they have to split up. It shows the importance of discussing problems with friends, parents and other adults to help reduce anxieties around a variety of problems.
Baller Boys vs the Bulldozers is a very good book centred around football that will engage young readers, and shows that football isn’t just for the boys – the culturally diverse all-boys team is even more inclusive with the introduction of Ashleigh. It is a great story of football, teamwork, camaraderie among the teammates, dedication and working hard as well as dealing with anxiety, prejudices, acceptance and inclusivity, all in a way that young readers will enjoy in an easy to read way.
What I like most about the story is that whilst it is about diversity and inclusion it doesn’t make a big deal of the differences between the children, whether that’s colour, race, religion or gender. Whilst you are aware that are the characters are all very different it just tells the story of a group of inner-city children all working together for their team, for their friends and for their community in a way that children will be able to relate to.
An excellent story that will appeal to children from all backgrounds, especially football-loving boys that are reluctant readers. And don’t forget to visit the Baller Boys website to download some free Baller Boys Activity Sheets.
RRP: £6.99 (Paperback) / £2.99 (Kindle)