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Great Illustrated Books

Pel�, King of Soccer

By Monica Brown, Illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez, Translated by Fernando Gayesky

HarperCollins/Rayo, 2009
Pages : 34
Suggested Ages: 6-9
ISBN: 006122779X

Though it's been three decades since Pelé dominated the professional soccer world, his fame endures and if you know a young soccer-player, this may be the perfect choice. In this electric picture book biography, written in both English and Spanish, we first watch him in action. "Pelé runs across the field like a cheetah, dribbling like a dancer . . ." In the soaring, color-soaked mixed-media artwork that swirls and dances and zooms across each page, Pelé is all legs and motion, like folk art paintings come to life. Jumping back to his childhood in Brazil, we see him shining shoes to help his poor family. Every night, he and his father play soccer in the street. There's a prophetic page where 10-year-old Pelé finds his father crying after Brazil has lost the World Cup, and the boy promises he will win one for him one day. And there's a sobering page for our acquisitive kids where Pelé and his barefoot friends use a grapefruit or a sock stuffed with newspapers for a soccer ball and are nicknamed the Barefoot Team. We follow his rise in the soccer world, starting at age 15, and on through his record-breaking one thousandth goal.

With just enough information for younger kids to absorb, beginning soccer players will be buoyed by the extraordinary rags-to-riches story of soccer's first superstar. When you watch him play (there are many clips on YouTube.com), you can see where the illustrator got his inspiration. You'll want to play a little soccer when you finish, though doing Pelé's famous bicycle kick, shown on the cover of the book, is probably not an option.

Reviewed by : JF.

Themes : BIOGRAPHY. MULTICULTURAL BOOKS. SPANISH LANGUAGE. SPORTS.

If you love this book, then try:

Burleigh, Robert. Stealing Home: Jackie Robinson Against the Odds. Simon & Schuster, 2007.


Cline-Ransome, Lesa. Satchel Paige. Simon & Schuster, 2000.


Cline-Ransome, Lesa. Young Pel�: Soccer's First Star. Schwartz & Wade, 2007.


Hamm, Mia. Winners Never Quit! HarperCollins, 2004.


Littlefield, Bill. Champions: Stories of Ten Remarkable Athletes. Little, Brown, 1993.


Winter, Jonah. Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Atheneum, 2005.


Winter, Jonah. You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?! Schwartz & Wade, 2009.

Critics have said

Told in a dual English/Spanish text, this inspiring blend of art and story scores a winning goal.
Kirkus