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GOAL by Robert Burleigh Kirkus Star


by Robert Burleigh & illustrated by Stephen T. Johnson

Age Range: 6 - 9

Pub Date: March 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-15-201789-5
Publisher: Harcourt

Burleigh uses the familiar game of soccer to demonstrate the power of teamwork to achieve success. Down to the last few minutes of a league soccer game with the score tied, the goal in this case is scoring and winning. Short, clipped phrases are used to convey the pace and intensity in the final moments of a tight game. "Players backpedaling. / Digging heels. / Explosions of gouged grass. / Mark tight! Guard the line!" Reading it out loud causes a certain breathiness, like listening to one of the players zigzagging across the field. Describing what it's like to be charging "in a wall of wild bodies," knees flailing, "all wheeling as one," watching the "goaltender's catlike leap," the text is given minimal space. This leaves lots of room for the action-packed pastels whose blurry outlines illustrate the fast-paced drama on the field. Close-ups take the reader off the sidelines and right into the play. Although general in its philosophical aim of promoting the positive aspects of teamwork, this book has some very soccer-specific terms, such as “needle's-eye chink,” and “chip pass unspooling,” sure to delight soccer enthusiasts. Even non-soccer players can appreciate that glorious feeling of team victory. In the end, both male and female teammates are just happy champions who leap, dance, cheer, and put their hands together, one on top of the other, to celebrate their achievement. On the very last page there's an illustration of a soccer ball entangled in the net for the final, winning "Goal. / Goal. / GOAL." A real winner. (Picture book. 6-9)