Score! Clare Hodgson Meeker’s simple but sweet story about soccer and what it means to one young boy will touch kids of all ages and levels of experience with the game, and maybe even a few parents. Kids who already love soccer – especially fans of the Seattle Sounders – will be riveted, and those who’d never played could be inspired to start.
The book follows Todo, a young boy who moves with his family from his old home in Kenya to a new one in Seattle. He loves soccer and feels a special connection with the Sounders from the beginning, and in Seattle he is quickly sought out by the coach of a local team. On the team Todo makes friends, helps the others learn teamwork and cooperation, and navigates a rivalry with an antagonistic boy who is also in his class at school.
When Todo strikes up a friendship with a player for the local girls team, Todo’s sister Adila wonders if their parents would allow her to play on a team as well. Throughout the story, Todo’s skill and love of the game helps him find friends and community, and to forge a special connection with his new home. Meeker’s writing makes this simple story heartfelt.
The main story is interspersed with short profiles of different players on the Seattle Sounders, including favorite position and a short quote from each. If you are a Sounders fan, you will find these profiles interesting, but for reader who doesn’t follow the Sounders, the profiles may distract from the central story of Todo and his love of soccer.
For boys and girls enthusiastic about soccer, sports, or the Seattle Sounders, this book is a shoe-in. It effectively communicates the fun and importance sports can have, and deftly touches on issues of sexism and racism that middle-schoolers may have to confront without becoming moralistic or overly dark. Most importantly, young readers will come away from the book with the message that sports can be a way to forge connections across social boundaries and make dreams come true.
Well-written and touching, Soccer Dreams could serve as a starting point for a conversation about some serious real-world issues, or simply a fun way to share a love of soccer. Either way, it’s a winner.