Review of Madani's Best Game

Madani’s Best Game
by Fran Pintadera; illus. by Raquel Catalina; trans. from Spanish by Lawrence Schimel
Primary    Eerdmans    48 pp.    g
10/22    978-0-8028-5597-8    $17.99

On a playing field in a city neighborhood’s central square, young Madani, a recent arrival, is the best player on his soccer team. He plays barefoot, and his teammates speculate how much better, even, he would play if he had proper cleats. They know Madani is saving up little by little (skipping afternoon snacks, walking instead of taking the bus) and await the day he can afford to buy cleats—hopefully before the upcoming match with their longtime rivals. Meanwhile, his mother sews all day in their apartment, listening to the faint cheers for Madani that waft through her window. The story is narrated by one of Madani’s teammates and reflects childlike concerns and perspectives. So the focus stays on the wonder of Madani’s skills rather than where he came from; and also, crucially, on the anticipated new cleats rather than what Madani is actually saving up for, which will likely come as a surprise to young readers. The illustrations in this Spanish import, in pencil, gouache, and colored pencil, capture a bustling neighborhood of sidewalk cafes, newsstands, fountains, passersby, traffic, and pigeons. The spreads showing soccer action are full of movement and energy as Madani juggles the ball, dodges opponents, shoots, and scores. A beautiful book centering on the beautiful game, but about so much more: immigrant life, family, friendship, love.

From the September/October 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is a contributing editor to The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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