Book Review: Soccer Star by Mina Javaherbin

by Mina Javaherbin; Illustrated by Renato Alarcão
Candlewick Press (April 8, 2014)
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6056-7

About the book
When Paulo Marcelo Feliciano becomes a soccer star, crowds will cheer his famous name! Then his mother won’t have to work long hours, and he won’t have to work all day on a fishing boat. For now, Paulo takes care of his little sister Maria (she teaches him reading, he teaches her soccer moves) and walks her to school, stopping to give his teammates cheese buns as they set out to shine people’s shoes or perform for the tourist crowd. At day’s end, it’s time to plan the game, where Givo will bounce, Carlos will kick, and Jose will fly! But when Jose falls on his wrist, will the team finally break the rules and let a girl show her stuff? Set in a country whose resilient soccer stars are often shaped by poverty, this uplifting tale of transcending the expected scores a big win for all. 

Just in time for the World Cup, an inspiring story of a Brazilian boy who dreams of being a soccer star -- and the sister who steps in to help his team win a game.

Thoughts on this book
On the title page of Soccer Star, I had to pause over the author's note. Javaherbin shares the following...
In Brazil, some children work hard for a living to overcome a stubborn opponent: poverty. This experience of life's hardship, being engaged in the survival arena from childhood, has helped shape Brazil's solid team of stars shining atop the world of soccer.  My story is an homage to all soccer stars who have risen and continue to rise up from poverty.
Children and poverty. A combination that we are all too frequently aware of and too often afraid to address.  However, Mina Javaherbin brings readers a story of children with a passion for life and soccer despite the poverty surrounding them.  

Told from the perspective of Paulo Marcelo Feliciano, a young boy with dreams of being of soccer star, readers learn of the lives of children in Brazil.  Paulo lives with his sister and mother in a small home. His mother has job, and works very long hours. He and his sister, Maria do what all children do.  They play, and help each other.  However, whereas Maria goes to school, Paulo spends the day fishing and helping Sehnor da Silva.  Throughout their neighborhood, each member of Paulo's soccer team also has a job. Javaherbin ties those jobs into their soccer dreams and contributions. Despite the poverty surrounding them, there is a sense of hope and playfulness in which this story is told.

Soccer Star has an additional layer woven into the story.  The story of Maria who wants to play soccer with her brother and his team. However, the boys keep shutting her out.  The team is only for boys.  When one of the players is injured, Maria has an opportunity to prove herself and to show that girls can play as well as any boy. 

Soccer Star is a special story to share with children.  Javaherbin's text is enhanced by the beautiful paintings of Renato Alarcão.  Look for a copy of Soccer Star at your local library or independent bookstore.

About Mina Javaherbin:
I was born in Iran and moved to the United States many years ago. I live in Southern California with my husband who has played soccer all his life, and nowadays volunteers as a coach at AYSO. We have two children, who also play soccer among many other sports. I believe that even though I have an architectural education, even though I write books, I seem to really be my children’s chauffeur and “food manager” a term they use to make me feel important and in charge! I like to add laundry manager, homework manager, and entertainment manager to the list as well.

Where to find her? website | blog | facebook | twitter