Author Mina Javaherbin writes of six neighborhood boys in South Africa playing a pickup game of soccer in the alley.The excitement is the new federation-sized soccer ball Ajani, the main character, has won for being the best reader in class.The boys must play with a look out because, as we are told repeatedly, the streets are not safe.Bands of older boys bully the younger boys; the friends know that if the bullies see the new ball, they will take it.Javaherbin captures the love of soccer (football) in the rest of the world.It becomes a release for the neighborhood boys; they can pretend to be their national team.While set in a foreign locale, the universality of the love of sport, poverty, and dealing with bullies makes this a “local” story.I enjoyed this story because of its putting South Africa in American libraries in an accessible way, for how the boys outsmart the bullies, and how the boys rely on each other as friends. 40 pages

Recommended by Katherine Stehman, Librarian, Pennsylvania USA

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