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- author Jackie French

Thursday 1 August 2013

Review: Extra Time

Fourteen-year-old Matt likes soccer. Well, he kind of more than likes it. He lives it. Breathes it.

And he's very, very good at it.

Younger sister Bridie, 10, also loves soccer. She loves it so much, she's Matt's official manager, and as a manager, it's her responsibility to ensure Matt not only hones his considerable skills, but that he has fun. Fun, you see, is vital when it comes to sport.

But it's also vital for the spirit.

Matt and Bridie live with their parents in rural Australia. They are a struggling, close-knit family who've been through an awful lot of bad luck. Matt's legs are practically held together with metal pins after surviving a truck accident that killed the family's twin boys, Pete and Danny, so it's no wonder Matt's parents are a little protective of their kids.

One day, when Matt is seen on a newscast navigating a thundering cattle pen with a soccer ball and some jaw-dropping foot skills, an overseas football agent spots the young lad and pays Matt's parents a call.

Before you can say 'half time', Bridie and Matt, accompanied by the adorable Uncle Cliff, are off to London where Matt scores a place on the junior side of a top British soccer team.

Thinking all their dreams are coming true, both Matt and Bridie (and Uncle Cliff, too) are more than a little sidelined when they realise how competitive the junior premier league side is ... so much so, they've sucked all the fun out of the game.

Bridie, who prides herself on taking care of Matt's beautiful heart as well as his seemingly bionic legs, is on a mission to ensure Matt's love of the game--and the joy he finds in simply playing it--is not lost, as he battles his other team mates to become The Chosen One to play in the first team.

Can a plucky ten-year-old remind the money-focused, win-obsessed Premier League honchos that soccer is meant to be fun?

Morris the Master has created yet another character-driven, well-rounded and action-focused title in Extra Time, with his signature dose of emotional tenderness, cleverly disguised in the big hearts of his central players.

Loads of derailments keep the reader guessing and wanting more, and an ending that reminds us of the importance of family and friendship makes for satisfying reading. A lot of fun--ever for a soccer novice like me.

Title: Extra Time
Author: Morris Gleitzman 
Publisher: Penguin, $16.99 RRP
Publication Date: 24 July 2013
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780143307754
For ages: 8 - 12
Type: Junior Fiction