Football (soccer to Americans), his father’s mandolin and his concern for his widowed mother carry Makis through an earthquake on the Greek island of Kefalonia to a new life in Camden Town in London.
The story moves swiftly, from the earthquake that devastates the island and kills Makis’ father (an earthquake actually did destroy the island in 1953), to the relocation to England, to Makis’ finding a place on the football team. His mother, Sofia, is devastated by her loss of spouse and homeland. She works in a Greek-run factory, but most of the Greeks there and in council housing are Greek-Cypriot and do not treat her kindly. Makis rapidly learns English and shows his strength on the pitch, but the boy he replaces on the school team rags on him because of his nationality. Not only does Makis find a way to teach his mother English, but an upstairs neighbor, a BBC musician, hears him play his father’s mandolin and invites Makis to practice with him. A crucial game, a crisis for his mother, a confrontation with a bully and a coach coming late to understanding combine for a satisfying climax. Ashley packs a lot of information and emotional resonance as well as some wizard football plays into a very simply told story.
Both Makis and his mother show growth and strength under difficult circumstances, and children will be caught by the many strands in this brief but absorbing tale. (Fiction. 8-12)