Celebrate soccer—and the World Cup!
“Uplifting and inspiring, this beautifully written and illustrated book reminds us of the joys and saving grace of friendship and sport.” — Archbishop Desmond Tutu
In a dusty township in South Africa, Ajani and his friends have earned a brand-new, federationsize soccer ball. They kick. They dribble. They run. They score. These clever boys are football champions! But when a crew of bullies tries to steal their ball, will Ajani and his friends be able to beat them at their own game?
About the Author
Mina Javaherbin was born in Iran and immigrated to the United States, where she is now a practicing architect. She lives in Southern California. This is her first picture book.
A. G. Ford is the illustrator of the New York Times bestseller BARACK by Jonah Winter and MICHELLE by Deborah Hopkinson. He also contributed to OUR CHILDREN CAN SOAR: A CELEBRATION OF ROSA, BARACK, AND THE PIONEERS OF CHANGE by Michelle Cook. He lives in The Colony, Texas.
Large and colorful action shots, many full spread, keep the story moving at a quick pace. . . . Choose this book with an international bent to supplement other books on bullying, because it will open up another opportunity for conversation and discussion.
—School Library Journal
The poetic text’s rhythmic repetition emphasizes the boys’ joyful empowerment: “When we play, / we forget to worry. / When we run, / we are not afraid.” In full-page oil paintings, Ford uses unusual angles to intensify the sense of the scuffling, exciting action.
While the level of danger—and deprivation—these boys face may be unfamiliar to many American readers, the quick-moving soccer action, tension, and triumph over the common threat of bullies have near-universal appeal.
Moving message about soccer’s power to inspire and connect fans and players around the world.
I can’t think of another book that so succinctly and simply portrays the power of sports to unite and uplift….wonderfully conveys the passion the rest of the world feels for football as well as the conditions much of the world lives in - a fabulous sports book and so much more.
—Bookends (Booklist blog)
A lyrical, strikingly illustrated story that celebrates the unifying power of soccer.
—90 Minutes Soccer Magazine
A lyrical, spare story of friendship and empowerment. . . . Gorgeous oil paintings, and Ford perfectly nails the wide-ranging moods that rear their heads in the story: Elation, fear, embarrassment, courage, and right back to elation. And …victory.
—Seven Impossible Things blog
Uplifting and inspiring, this beautifully written and illustrated book reminds us of the joys and saving grace of friendship and sport. Set in South Africa, this book is a gift for soccer fans and all families around the world.
—Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Action-packed oil paintings expand the artfully clipped style of a satisfying story as much about teamwork, global connection and the pleasure of play as about soccer itself.
—San Francisco Chronicle
Ford's oil paintings capture the faces and posture of boyhood confrontation perfectly. His color choices and use of light to imply motion are masterful
—News & Record
The Smoke Thieves slowly drew me in until I couldn't put it down. The strong voices and the fact that the stories don't seem like one until you realize that they have become one. The plot was fast and entertaining. I loved this book and would recommend it to anybody who loves medieval fantasies. - Kaitlyn, customer age 13