________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 3. . . .September 26, 2008


Breathing Soccer.

Debbie Spring.
Saskatoon, SK: Thistledown Press, 2008.
140 pp., pbk., $10.95.
ISBN 978-1-897235-42-3.

Subject Headings:
Asthma-Juvenile fiction.
Soccer stories.

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.

Review by Wendy Williams.

** /4



My friend gave me a bite of her egg sandwich. I asked if it had nuts, because I'm allergic. She said no, and since I didn't see any, I ate it. Turned out, there were nuts in the bread. I spit it out right away, but I must have swallowed some because my tongue and throat started to swell and I had trouble breathing. I remember screaming at her mother to inject me with my EpiPen.


Breathing Soccer is the story of Lisa, a 12-year-girl who suffers from acute asthma. She is scared that this medical problem will mean that she will not be able to play soccer, something she wants to do more than anything else in the world. After a severe asthma attack, Lisa ends up in hospital where she meets Emily, another asthma sufferer, who becomes a friend. Lisa needs this support as her family doctor is a traditional man who issues a stern warning against playing soccer or even pursuing outdoor activities. The story continues as Lisa persuades her parents to send her to Dr. Bellows, a female doctor who specializes in allergy-related illnesses. Dr. Bellows gives Lisa hope and allows her to play soccer, providing that she always carries her Epi-pen and takes care to do her special exercises if she is ever short of breath.

      This novel is very direct in its aims. The author wants to make the point to young readers that having asthma, if it's treated sensibly, need not be a life-threatening condition. If the right precautions are taken, a girl like Lisa can live the active, sporty life she has always wanted. Silken Laumann is used as an inspiration for Lisa. She was the Canadian rower who suffered a catastrophic accident just weeks before she had hoped to compete in the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona. Even though it took a tremendous amount of courage and hope, Silken was determined to heal and recover in time to compete. Lisa has to learn to draw inspiration from Silken's tremendous effort and to achieve her potential in spite of her physical challenges. She also has to overcome her friends' reluctance to accept her as a normal part of their group and to overcome her grief at having to give up her dog.

      Debbie Spring covers all the basic facts concerning treatment for asthma and does seem to address some of the challenges that a young teen might experience as a result of having a medical problem involving allergies, a condition that is becoming very frequent. The social and family challenges are handled in a very perfunctory way, and the brevity of the scenes seems quite preachy. The basic situations and information are covered, but the emotional challenges are more prescriptive than emotional, and the feelings experienced by Lisa seem forced, as though checked off from a medical dictionary. The character of Lisa is also something of a cardboard cutout, with little individuality or nuances to her experiences. A heroine needs to be more convincing and multi-dimensional to be fully persuasive, and the writing needs to be at a higher level to draw in the teens of today who require an instant connection to their peer group.

      Breathing Soccer attempts to provide a novel that provides hope and comfort to young girls affected by severe allergy problems, and it attempts to show them that they can still achieve a great deal of their potential. This book has good goals, but I would like to see a novel on the same subject that provides more rounded characters and is less preachy and politically correct.


Wendy Williams, of Calgary, AB, is a teacher-librarian and self-confessed book worm. She recently returned from a month in England where she pursued, among other things, all sorts of literary connections and places.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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