When I was a fifth and sixth grader, I could not read enough sports books. I had already devoured every Matt Christopher book I could get my hands on years before and I read nonfiction memoirs of athletes every chance I got. Babe Didrickson Zaharias and Wilma Rudolph were faves of mine, and I longed to participate in the Olympics like they did. Granted I was nowhere near as good an athlete as they but I had the dreams to keep up with them in other ways! But I couldn't find enough engaging and interesting books to read. Greater I couldn't find keen girl characters anywhere. I lost momentum so I stopped looking for deeper, more thoughtful, realistic fiction sports stories. When I came across Soccerland by Beth Choat(2010), I tentatively opened the book. The same feelings came flooding back and I just knew that this would be another book that didn't keep me engaged. I neglected to notice the small smile on my face once I finished the first page. I was about to be wrong!!
Choat's career started with sports journalism where I am guessing that she has spent rich time with key athletes that I would drool to talk with. She knows what the lives of competitive athletes look, sound and feel like from her documented time in Olympic Villages and with numerous teams. She accurately reflects the joys and tensions that come with living in competitive sports in the 21st century. She brings her experiences to the table for those of us less-fortunate but equally fascinated female sports enthusiasts. And it was from that avenue that I enjoyed this read. This was the first time I learned what life might be like on the inside within the covers of a children's book, and I appreciated her engaging voice as well as her psychology-oriented brain.
Soccerland is the story of 14-year-old high school soccer star, Flor. She leaves home with the hesitant graces of her father and extended family, all of whom stay home to cover for her on the family farm while she attends a national soccer camp. She carries with her memories of her recently deceased mother who continues to greatly influence Flor's desire to play soccer at the top of her game, which is likely beyond what her high-school team can offer. Her coach knows Flor's history and serves as a fitting if distant role model as he cheers her on from home. Flor's time in the soccer camp thousands of miles away from home comes at a price, and it is there she comes to terms with what is most important in her life.
I enjoyed this read. If you are looking for a text filled with the world of competitive sports, especially female soccer, I encourage you to seek this one out. Let me know what you think.