Friday 12 November 2021

Hat-Trick Teddy

Hat-Trick Teddy by James Tedesco, illustrated by Heath McKenzie (Pan Macmillan) PB RRP $14.99 ISBN 9781760982911

Reviewed by Nikki M Heath

Twelve-year-old Teddy is a star junior rugby league player with a close-knit group of mates and a loving family. Life is going swimmingly, until disaster strikes Teddy’s club, and he is forced to join the arch enemy team. Teddy’s friends feel betrayed and his new teammates distrust and undermine him. How will Teddy put his world to rights?

It is tempting to be sceptical of yet another case of sports-star-makes-children’s-book, given the author was a successful NRL player and the cover trades off that reputation. However, this reader - a South Australian with no knowledge of rugby of any sort and well outside the target age range - could barely put the book down. The characters are fun, engaging and fully fleshed out, with realistic dialogue. The genuine emotion conveyed makes the reader care deeply about what happens to the characters.

The illustrations accentuate key points in the narrative but are distributed relatively sparsely, so a reader who needs a picture to each page or spread may find the book a little daunting. That said, the text is broken up using a range of devices to give extra dimension to the text. 

There are a lot of exclamation marks and some heavy-handed analogies, and the rugby tips at the end of each chapter, useful as they are, don’t bear any relation to the narrative. More important, though, is the overall warmth and diversity (both in its regional setting and characters’ cultural backgrounds) of the story.

The book offers wonderful lessons in sportsmanship and determination, as well as practical advice for junior athletes. Sports fans -- especially rugby league followers aged from 7 to 11-- will get a lot out of this rollicking read.

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