Saturday 21 August 2010

The David Beckham Academy: Away From Home

The David Beckham Academy: Away From Home by Emily Stead, illustrated by Adam Relf (Egmont)

PB RRP $12.95
ISBN 978-1-4052-5164-8
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This is another title with positive themes in the David Beckham Academy series of books. The story focuses mainly on three children; George, Ben and Stephan. They arrive at the Academy to learn what it means to play in real teams, under real team names, with a cup as the trophy to the winners at the tournament end. They will also get skills training, confidence building, and their self-esteem will be greatly increased by the time they set off for home again.

Stephan is a Polish boy who can’t speak English and for this reason, he is confronted with a great many obstacles. But he can play football (soccer) like a professional and he proves that the spoken language is not the only form of communication available when it comes to playing sport.

Kelly is the coach of Holland, the team in which the three children are allocated. Stephan tries his best to get a grip on what is being said in the skills training, but fails to do so. Luckily Ben is up first and Stephan follows his lead and comes out the best of the group. Ben claims the captaincy and hands out the positions to the rest of the team. When it comes to Stephan, the Polish boy tries miming to explain what he does best and is misunderstood, and is put into defence position instead of striker, which has adverse effects on the team’s performance.

It’s not until Holland have lost several games and become disillusioned, that things take a turn. Stephan is passing a training room when he sees a tactics board with play positions drawn up. He realises he has discovered the way to communicate without words. He calls the team in and calls each person’s name as he points to their position, then his as striker. He draws up the lines of play and defence and the team returns with full force to take the trophy, which is presented to them by David Beckham.

This series comes highly recommended by the reviewer. There are a lot of values and positive themes in these books which aimed at teaching children the important issues of team play, patience and perseverance. Each book has several lessons to be learnt, with each character evolving by some degree fro the better by the end of the book. Ideally suited for children aged 7+, these books will catch the interest of a wide-ranging audience not necessarily only those interested in sport.

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