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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Betty Bunny Wants a Goal, written by Michael B. Kaplan and illustrated by Stephane Jorisch. Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin. 2014. $18.00 ages 5 and up

"That night at dinner, Betty Bunny could not stop talking about the next day when she would play her very first soccer game. "I am going to score ten goals!" she announced. "Just try your hardest and we'll be proud of you," Kate said. "Do I really have to go to the game?" Henry asked."

Who isn't thinking soccer these days? The 2014 FIFA World Cup is garnering media attention almost every hour of the day. It is the most popular and certainly the most accessible sport for children and adults throughout the world. It is no wonder that Betty Bunny is keen to play!

I will trust that you have met Betty in previous family stories, If not, you are in for a real treat! She is, and always has been, 'a handful'. Readers know that the moment they meet her. We also know that she loves chocolate cake, wants everything and doesn't like to take responsibility for mishaps. It is not surprising that soccer will not change her. She is happy to acknowledge that she is indeed a 'handful':

"She knew this because at her very first soccer practice, when
she picked up the ball and ran away with it, her coach said,
 "Betty Bunny, you are a handful."
Betty Bunny knew that she must be the star of the team for
her coach to say something so great about her."

She's nothing, if not confident in her own skin. So, it's not surprising that she assures her family she will be scoring ten goals in her very first game. When all does not go as planned, Betty is sad, embarrassed, and furious. She is done with soccer.

The family, as supportive families will do, encourage her to keep trying. There is no reasoning with her, until they appeal to a bright future of goals and trophies...if she keeps working at her game. The second game is no better. When her brother Bill suggests that 'maybe you're just not that good', he is assigned the task of helping to improve Betty's skills. Practice pays off when she is finally able to score that elusive goal. Now, she's again full of self-assurance and bravado!

As is the case in the earlier books, Michael Kaplan has a keen ear for humor amongst family members, especially siblings. That sense of fun allows the message from this story to quietly make its presence known without being overbearing. The dialogue between family members are cause for quiet giggles and much enjoyment.

Stephane Jorisch uses pencil, ink, watercolor and gouache in lively tones in creating a family dynamic that is worthy of our attention. His expressive faces, use of white space to focus our attention, and action-filled spreads add just the right touch to this heartwarming tale.

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