CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 1. . . .September 7, 2012
Gilles Tibo and Bruno St-Aubin's Soccer Crazy is a fun picture book about good sportsmanship both on and off the playing field. Little Nicholas is addicted to kicking around his soccer ball, especially in places it's not wanted. He makes a ruckus of everything in the ball's midst, not because he's naughty, but because he is simply a bundle of nerves. His first soccer tournament is happening in a few hours, and he has to master his moves in time. Brimming with excitement, he drives his sedated household crazy. Mom's newspaper reading gets interrupted, Sister's cereal bowl flips over, and Dad is least enthusiastic, especially when the ball smashes the kitchen window. In the end, Nicholas is able to win them all over, eliciting a smile even out of his cranky dad. It turns out, too, that Dad's crankiness was apparently a result of feeling a bit left out of the game; Nicholas discovers that getting Dad on board with the team benefits everyone. This story is about giving one's all, about positive and healthy relationships with sports and teammates, and about appreciating mom and dad, even when they're grumpy.
Tibo's writing is snappy and dynamic, with a great tempo, and effectively employs onomatopoeia and repetition. St-Aubin's watercolour/pencil crayon illustrations are hilarious and energetic, depicting a very international-looking cast of kids (and a few adults) who spill out of the pages with fantastic facial expressions. However, this book's weakness is that, despite the strength of the writing and the strength of the pictures, the two elements mimic each other, telling the exact same story, making the pages feel a bit flat and redundant. Strong picture books succeed often when the pictures fill in the gaps in interesting (and sometimes unexpected) ways where the writing ends, enlisting a complementary and interesting dialogue or relationship between the words and the art. A kind of synergy should happen when the two meet, as the words call on the pictures, and vice versa, for a fuller more robust meaning. Unfortunately, this doesn't happen in Soccer Crazy. The words live in their own world on the page, and the pictures live in another. Because of this, the book is not as dynamic nor memorable as it could be. Soccer Crazy is a fun book that would make for an enjoyable read-aloud, though perhaps not as memorable otherwise.
Danya Vasquez David is a graduate of University of British Columbia's M.A. in Children's Literature program.
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