Gather around for a boisterous game of futbol in Paul and Alcántara’s excellent picture-book debut.
To begin, the players assemble. With a ball at the ready, one young player calls on others—children, and even adults—to join in. Readers see a diverse cast of mostly dark-skinned characters often gendered in implicit ways. Everyone heads on over to the field, where each player warms up. As the group splits into teams of “friends versus friends,” one brave player shoos away the grazing cows. The game then begins. Basing the narrative on his experiences growing up in Saint Lucia, Paul weaves in italicized Creole phrases and words alongside their English counterparts in such a way that the text bursts with infectious joy. “Isi!” shouts a player, while another player cries “This way!” But suddenly, clouds block the sun and rain falls. “Fini? Game over?” Of course not. The friendly scuffle continues on the muddy field, through every splash, slide, and flop. Colorful and dynamic, Alcántara’s pictures depict an island community in lush shades of green and blue dotted with houses of bright red and orange; in one series of striking illustrations, the players’ vibrant clothing contrasts against muddied backgrounds. Watch the sun appear again when one player scores a “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!” It’s a triumphant, earned moment that lingers even as the story reaches its suitably subdued coda.
Irresistible fun. (author’s note, bibliography, glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)