Renee Mihulka – Children's Book Reviews & Writer


tenOVERALL: 4.5 4.5 Stars

Concept:4 Stars
Characters:4.5 Stars
Plot:4 Stars
Writing:5 Stars


Shamini Flint
Sally Heinrich
Abrams Books


Description: Ten year old Maya lives, breathes and dreams soccer and wants nothing more than to become a professional soccer player. The only problem is that living in a small seaside town in Malaysia and being an Indian girl is not going to make it easy – oh and then there’s the fact that she has never even kicked a ball! Add to this the issue of her parent’s constant arguing and the new Indian girl at school who is just not fitting in and Maya is going to have to come up with some unique solutions to get what she wants.

Concept: I love, love, love books about girls who are into sport, so this concept is a winner for me. Add to this the issues of race and growing up in a small seaside town with parents you are not getting along and this book ticks a lot of boxes. The author has written a heap of books about kids and sport along the lines of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, except they are called Diary of a Soccer Star’ or ‘Super Swimmer’ etc. so she really has a passion for sport and this comes through in this book.

Characters: This book is written from the point of view of ten year old Maya. Very early on you can’t but help like Maya and feel for all the situations she has to deal with in this book. She comes across as a natural realistic 10 year old. Shamini Flint also manages to write an authentic portrayal of Maya’s parents, their arguments and the confusion this causes Maya. The only negative is that there are quite a few stereotypical characters such as the annoying brother, the Indian grandmother and spoilt rich girl, but in Flint’s defence they were all quite minor characters so its hard to give them depth – basically they had a job to do and they did it.

Plot: All in all the book was a pleasure to read and rollicked along well. There were a couple of things in it that I thought were a bit ‘put on’ such as Maya never kicking a soccer ball yet being obsessed with soccer since she was small and then one day she simply asks her parents for a ball and gets one. Wouldn’t she have asked ages ago? Plus there was the inconsistency of the family being portrayed as poor, but then they sent Maya and her brother to good schools and bought her a stack of books from England. I also found the ending a bit forced but I can see how it would appeal to kids and there is a certain naive beauty to it.

Writing: I really enjoy the way Shamini Flint writes. This book was easy to read and engaging. I rarely found myself rereading a sentence which is a sure sign of good writing. The language used is appropriate to the 1980s setting and I like that it is slightly different from today’s prose.

PARENTS: Reading widely is really important for kids and this book ticks a lot of boxes. It is set in a small seaside town in Malaysia in the 1980s, which is an unusual. It features an interracial marriage and a girl who loves sport as well as touching on Indian culture, racism and divorce. Whew! Sounds like a lot, but Flint manages to include it all seamlessly. This is exactly the kind of book I would want my 8-11 year old to read, even more so if I or someone close to us was going through a divorce.

Things to ask and discuss:

1) Talk about how Maya went about achieving her dream of playing soccer. About dreaming big, but starting small.

2) This book provides a good starting point to talk about how some adult relationships just don’t work out. The questions and depth you go into here would really depend on your child and what you are comfortable talking about.

3) Maya’s father becomes quite absent in his kids lives after he leaves. This is another sensitive topic that can be broached using this book.

4) Batumalar has a tough time at school and there are a number of occasions where Maya feels like she should do something help her. Talk about what holds her back at first.

5) This is a good book to talk about expectations and dreams. Maya has a lot of expectations placed on her by her Grandma and extended family. They expect her to be a good Indian girl and get married while all Maya dreams of is playing professional soccer. Talk about how hard it is to manage other peoples expectations and stay true to your dreams.

Come on comment, you know you wanna.

Book Reviews and Writer