________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 16. . . .December 21, 2012


Playing Favourites. (Sports Stories).

Trevor Kew.
Toronto, ON; James Lorimer, 2012.
140 pp., pbk., hc. & Ebook, $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.), $8.95 (Ebook).
ISBN 978-1-4594-0256-0 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0257-7 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0258-4 (Ebook).

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Yahong Chi.

**½ /4



The referee blew one long blast on his whistle. A Cedars player kicked the ball to his teammate, who took a long shot on Critter. Critter caught it easily.

"Hey," said someone to Gavin's right.

Gavin looked. It was Jeans Guy. Lucas, Gavin told himself. "What do you want?" he said quickly.

"I've never played striker," said Lucas. "I don't know what to do."

But just then, Critter's long drop kick sailed toward skinny Jamie. He jumped higher than the huge Cedars midfielders and headed the ball towards Gavin. Gavin flicked it over a defender's lunging boot, then passed the ball out to the side for Lucas.

The ball thudded off the awkward boy's shin pad and rolled way wide of the goal.

"Good try, Lucas!" shouted Mido.

It was then that Gavin knew what he needed to do. "Just chase the defenders when they get the all," he told Lucas. "And if you get the chance to shoot, don't look at your target. Just concentrate on kicking the ball!"


Gavin's headed for the high school with the worst soccer team in the city, Vandyke Secondary. But when he gets to Vandyke, the news is worse: there's no soccer team at all. So with his best friends Critter and Mido, and his "footy"-loving grandfather supporting him, Gavin decides to start and coach the soccer team himself. It's not as easy as it seems, and the obstacles rise as Gavin struggles to take down all the doubts and lead his team to success.

      An interesting premise is backed by authentic soccer scenes in this short novel. Drills are practiced, matches are watched and games are played out highlight-by-highlight. The relationship between coach and players is also depicted well and expounded upon as a source of tension.

      Gavin's grandfather represents tradition and shows a distinctly Canadian touch to the story. He also balances out Gavin's school troubles with his home life and allows for more character development; however, the end twist may stretch beyond the emotional investment the reader has in the story. Gavin's friends Critter and Mido are equally well-developed, and all three boys play off one another with believable banter.

      The dialogue wavers between believable and not (occasionally the diction resembles a colloquial adult's as opposed to a middle-grader's), but with authentic real-life situations and realistic soccer scenes, Playing Favourites stands well as a story of friendship and sportsmanship.


Yahong Chi is a blogger and writer in Ottawa, ON.

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

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