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Monday, June 14, 2010

For the Love of Soccer! Written by Pele and illustrated by Frank Morrison. Hyperion Books, HB Fenn. 2010. $19.99 ages 3 and up

"But practicing my moves
wasn't anything
compared to playing
in a real game."

As all eyes turn to South Africa and the month long celebration of the most popular sport in the world, we will be reminded of some of its most famous players. There will be video profiles, much talk and perhaps a glimpse of that special someone.

Pele is most certainly the most celebrated player of the sport. Born in 1940 in Brazil, soccer was always a part of his life. His father was a professional player until injury cut his career short. But, he was a great teacher and he taught his son the lessons that would hold him in good stead as he pursued the life he loved. His mother's concern did not deter him.

There was no money but Pele and his friends found a way to play daily and improve at the sport they loved. His skills led him to signing with his first professional team, far from home. Although homesick, he never gave up his dream. He was born to play soccer. Today he is honored for his perseverance and for the attention he brought to the game.

In his first book for children he describes his love for the game, the constant work that brought him success and the sportsmanship he exhibits that holds him in high esteem throughout the world. The story is simply told but gives its readers a sense of the boy who had great love of sport and the man he has become because of his association with it.

Frank Morrison does a wondrous job of illustrating Pele's words. He uses two visual stories to tell it...on one side we watch Pele as he plays barefoot in the streets of his small town while the facing page shows a young boy, at his birthday party, receiving a new soccer ball with great joy. As the pages turn the left side shows Pele's story and the right shows the talented young boy of today. It is a fitting tribute to the man who inspired so many to try his sport. The final two spreads show the two meeting, Pele autographing a ball and the boy kicking it with all the love and skill he has.

Pele's lesson is apt:

"Some people have called me the best soccer player in the world.
But I've never played for fame.
I play for the love of the game."


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