Our Beautiful Game – at a glance
The School Reading Lists’ five word review: fascinating, inspiring, valuable, enjoyable, learning.
Children’s book title: Our Beautiful Game.
Children’s author: Lou Kuenzler.
Genre: Chapter book middle grade fiction.
Published by: Faber.
Recommended for children aged: 10-13.
First published: Paperback July 2021.
This children’s book is ideal for: Year 6-8 independent reading and lower KS3 class reading.
To see the latest price or order, click on the book cover image.
Lou Kuenzler’s fictional Polly Nabb echoes the life of the famous female footballer Lilly Parr, who was one of eight children born into a working-class Lancashire family and started her professional playing career aged fourteen. The historical context of this book is important and the essential background is to be found on its cover and in the author’s note.
In her amazing career, Lilly went on to score over nine hundred goals for her team and country. The book is also prefaced by two significant quotations:
The game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged.
– The Football Association, 5th December 1921.
It is our duty to inspire young girls to play a sport.
– Steph Houghton MBE, England’s top scorer at the 2012 Olympics and captain of England’s Women’s National Football Team since 2014.
The first five chapters are devoted to scene and character setting as we are welcomed to the town of Lowcross, Lancashire in July 2017. We are in the world of Lowry and twelve-year-old Polly Nabb is at the centre of the painting.
This excellent book is very readable. Its four hundred pages pass very quickly, but don’t be deceived by its readability – as well as charting Polly’s rise to footballing stardom “Our Beautiful Game” confronts many social issues that impinge directly upon the lives of Polly and her family and friends.
Many of these issues will be familiar to the reader – extreme male chauvinism, class and gender discrimination, female exploitation via the dangerous working conditions in the munitions factories and the grinding poverty of everyday life for the families trying to survive. However, the author includes some facts that surprised me.
The First World War is coming to its end but families are still losing loved ones but the dreaded “missing, presumed dead” message is sent by telegram to the families of officers and by letter to the families of ordinary soldiers. We share Polly’s dismay when talking to Lady Gidleigh who befriends her, this difference is highlighted:
“Telegram?” Polly stopped walking. “They sent you a telegram?”….”Yes,” said Lady G. “The same dreadful day. Whenever it’s an officer they…..Oh …how rotten…”She trailed off and Polly growled ….Of course! When officers were missing or killed, their families were sent a telegram right away. Not so for ordinary soldiers like Joe (Polly’s brother) …”we got a letter”.
Polly’s passion for playing football is never in doubt. When she discovers the girls from the Lowcross munitions factory playing a game behind the locked gates of the factory forecourt her excitement leads her to apply for a job in the factory, even though she is several years too young for such dangerous work.
Polly’s steely determination turns the factory kick about girls into “The Ruffian Girls”, a team of talented footballers who quickly establish a reputation for themselves which leads to fixtures against other female teams in the area.
Polly Nabb is a force of nature and her story is genuinely inspiring – the book is about learning from and being inspired by others, rather than hiding your potential and giving in to your doubts.
Lou Kuenzler writes with a teenage audience in mind but anyone with an interest in sport and social history will enjoy this book. “Our Beautiful game” is full of fascinating facts and valuable life lessons and it is hugely enjoyable to read and the word ‘our’ in the title is important as it gives ownership of the game and its life lessons to the girls. Let Polly and her best friend Daphne have the final words:
“Listen to me, Pol. We’re not going to be as good as the men, because we’re going to do better than that…we’re going to be as good as ourselves!…we’re just going to play our own game the best we can, for ourselves and by ourselves”….”Yes!” said Polly, a burst of fire exploding in her belly. She’d never thought of it like that before, but Daph was right “Our own game!”
Many thanks to Faber Children’s for the review copy.
If you like Our Beautiful Game by Lou Kuenzler you might also like: our Autumn term 2021 best new books list, Sports Legends: 50 Inspiring People by Rick Broadbent, Ronaldo Rules by Simon Mugford & Dan Green, Notes on my Family by Emily Critchley, and Happy Healthy Minds by The School of Life.
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