'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 7 March 2011

Review: Specky Magee and the Great Footy Contest

One thing I really love about parenting is watching my children fall in love with things I don’t understand. It’s like their own private specialness that mum doesn’t need to create for them, doesn’t need to foster, can’t get into. It’s their first stretch to independence, their first foray out of the nest, even if only figuratively.

For my son, that thing I don't understand is Football.

That's right; I don’t understand it. But what I do understand is the passion and the obsession. And there’s plenty a kid (and grownup!) can attest to that.

When Felice Arena coupled with football legend Garry Lyon to write his first Specky Magee book, I can imagine the fun they had putting it together. Since then, the series has expanded to eight enormously popular books, spawning a website dedicated to its characters.

When I first picked up Specky Magee and the Great Footy Contest, I felt so out of my depth, I started hyperventillating. But after a good hot cup of tea and a lie down, I quickly immersed myself in a world where mums may fear to tread.

And it was fun in there! There was even a female coach (much to the chagrin of some of the book's characters)! There was major insight into the game of AFL. There was comaraderie, teamwork, secrets, revelations, plenty of plot twists and 'issues' - and of course, loads of blow-by-blow footy play, which - although I again just smiled politely through and faked understanding - I know my son would hover over every word.

Despite a very cleverly constructed storyline with a bit of an emotional cliffhanger ending, the thing I loved most about my first Specky book was the glorious cultural references and language. This book is very and most proudly Australian and it's wonderful for our boys to enjoy and celebrate this as they read.

The text is also studded with short passages (headed by the image of a footy) on the moral codes not only behind football but behind friendship, honour and fair play. These passages are cleverly woven into the storyline - almost like an aside in a play - and work beautifully to complement the messages contained in the Specky books.

Arena has created an enormously likable character in his Simon 'Specky' Magee - and I can only hope my own son Riley grows up to be anything like this lovely lad. And perhaps play a game of AFL as well as he does, too! A wonderful role model for boys, the Specky books will be treasured in our house for a long time to come.

Title: Specky Magee
Author: Felice Arena and Garry Lyon
Publisher: Penguin, A$16.95
Publication Date: 31 March 2003
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780143300618
For ages: 8-12
Type: Junior Fiction

Teacher's Notes