In June I received a proof copy of Kick. It arrived in a bright yellow package, tied with a black football boot lace.
The publisher Usborne are a major international player, so only a truly exceptional book would have brought them to treat it so specially. And Kick is an exceptional book: for a start it’s a kids’ book completely about football that appeals to girls and has the endorsement of Amnesty International UK.
As the story progresses we see Budi, a 12 year old Indonesian boy who works in a sweatshop sewing football boots. He isn’t that different to 12 year old boys here in Wymondham: he looks forward to his birthday, he watches Premier League matches, and he imagines he’s scoring a winning goal when he’s playing football in the street.
Then the differences become clear, not least when a stray football goes through the window of dangerous criminals, who then force Budi to make difficult decisions that put his job and his family in danger.
The book is well-written with likable characters, but its appeal is partly that it authentically recognises that in these conditions, there are no easy answers, and life is just tough. Because Budi is quite naive, a younger reader probably won’t pick up on some of the harrowing aspects of life in Jakarta, which adult readers would find more disturbing. However there is plenty to talk to children about without destroying their innocence, as Johnson makes very open discussion of advertising and capitalism.
Despite the realities it covers, Budi and the book itself are full of hope. Johnson says that he hopes that both adults and children will leave the book reassured that they must never give up their dreams of achieving a better life.
I am not the target market for this book: I am an adult female and have daughters, but as my eldest said, “It’s more about the people.” And it’s true, Kick is a story about how the world we live in affects us all. So it’s not only a great selection for sharing with the young people in your life, it’s a great story to get us all to stop and think.