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Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Field, written by Baptiste Paul and illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara. North/South. 2018. $23.95 ages 5 and up

"I'm open!"

"This way!"
So close."

Any open field can provide hours of fun and exercise for those who love to play soccer. Baptiste Paul sets his story on an island in the Caribbean where such a field calls to the children and interested adults early in the morning. An invitation is issued to every player in the village, and soon they are on their way to get the field ready for a game.

They have a ball (bol). They are wearing shoes (soulye). The goal posts are set. Oh, and the field is cleared of grazing cattle. Finally, it's a friend versus friend contest. Play begins and goes on and on, despite dust, wind and a rainstorm. Nothing stops them. Removing shoes and socks, they play through the storm, helping each other up from the mud and happy to play on when the rain stops. Only when mamas call them inside at the end of a long day do they quit.

"Soaked shoes.
Dirty shirts.
Mud-caked kids.
Torn-up field. "

It's bath time and bedtime and sweet dreams about futbol.

In an author's note, Baptiste Paul reflects on his childhood and the amount of time he spent playing futbol with his family and friends. He is reminded of that childhood whenever his own children play outside. He knows children learn a lot when they play on a team, and can overcome the challenges that face them together . He also discusses the Creole language spoken in the Caribbean, and used in his text. A glossary of words used and a pronunciation key are welcome.

The full-out fun of playing the game is evident in the expended energy shown in the lively images created by Jacqueline Alcantara in her debut picture book. Constant movement, a verdant setting, bold colors and rich details add charm and context.  

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