Kick by Mitch Johnson

An extremely impressive debut, this book has at its heart a lead character with whom readers will readily engage. Despite his difficult and at times distressing life 12 year old Budi is a boy with friends, heroes, hopes and dreams just like youngsters his age the world over. This is an important story told in an accessible way and is highly recommended.

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Budi is a football loving Indonesian boy living in Jakarta. He dreams of becoming a footballer like his hero, Kieran Wakefield of Real Madrid, and every evening he trains with his best friend Rothy and watches the important matches whenever he can. In many ways this could be describing football mad boys in the UK. But there is a big difference. Every day Budi works for up to 10 hours in a sweatshop making football boots and earning very little for it. The working conditions are harsh and some of the descriptions of the conditions are upsetting. But Budi has a quiet strength and humour which combined with a loving family help him to cope with his situation. Until one day, when playing football one unlucky kick changes things forever. Now Budi has upset The Dragon, the most dangerous man in the city and he may have to pay a high price for doing so.

Both the characters and the setting felt very real to me. Mitch Johnson has a knack of describing the heat, the smells, sounds and colours of the city in a way that brings them vividly to life. This is a world away from the life most of the book’s readers will know and the reality of this difference is important and sobering. Despite the poverty in which Budi’s family live and their shame at Budi’s uncle’s prison sentence this is a family that love and support each other. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Budi and his storytelling Grandma. That love across the generations is an important part of family life and her stories contained pearls of wisdom.

As I read this I was repeatedly reminded of my own football loving sons. When they were Budi’s age they were in many ways so similar to him. Little things like the need to turn any everyday object into a football and the copying of their hero’s celebrations at their team’s successes were strikingly familiar. However I was also reminded of shopping trips to buy new boots and trainers. I despaired at the high price of these and as my sons grew taller and bigger the replacements were needed so often. I knew and had read about the manufacture of my boys’ favourite boots and although I tried to buy from reputable stockists there was a nagging worry at the back of my mind. My sons, now adults, have grown up in a very different world to Budi’s and have been lucky to be able to see their heroes play at Wembley and stadiums in Europe. For Budi this was a dream that is so unlikely to come true and yet he never gives up hope. His resilience and optimism is something that young readers can learn much from.

Kick is an important story that I will think about and remember for a long time.

This would be an excellent read for Year 6 age and above. It can be purchased in all good book shops, borrowed from your local library or bought online

It says a great deal that this special book has been endorsed by Amnesty International and a range of teaching resources and links to information about Amnesty’s work can be found on the website here.

Fairtrade is a simple way to make a difference to the lives of the people who grow and make the things we use. They do this by changing the way trade works through better prices, decent working conditions and a fair deal for farmers and workers in developing countries. Fairtrade have produced a range of resources to help teachers explain their programme to children. Among these are a film and presentation on The Story of  Fairtrade Footballs which would link well with Kick. The film can be found on the official website here.

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