Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2021
Lucinda Gifford is a children’s book author and illustrator based in Melbourne Australia, who also spends a lot of her time drawing in front of an audience.
Lydia Williams is an Indigenous Australian soccer player, goal keeper for the Australian Matildas and for Arsenal in the UK. She spent her early childhood in outback Australia, then moved to the city with her family.
This experience is chronicled, parable-like, in the fictitious character of Lydia in GOAL!!! too, as she moves to a big city and feels lost and lonely without the company of her animals friends dingo, koala, kangaroo and emu. She also thinks her dream of being a big-time soccer player may be lost.
But playing soccer with some new animal friends at the city zoo helps her not just to assuage this loneliness but also to improve her game. In the story, she initially finds her new friends somewhat intimidating. They are all so skilful – the tiger, the bear, the giraffe and the gibbon. However, the friendly overtures of Penguin reassure her and she returns to the soccer game with new powers of observation and determination that help her to improve.
Regular and committed practice with these skilful team-mates serves her well – each animal friend has a particular gift to share. Best of all, she learns that she doesn’t have to be perfect. Sometimes, we fail, no matter how good we are.
Lydia Williams and artist Lucinda Gifford have produced a colourful and attractive book with a strong moral that will be easily understood by children. The pictures are bright and provide plenty of talking points for adults reading to their young listeners. There is no doubt that children (and adults) can apply these life lessons to their everyday struggles, challenges and triumphs.
Thank you to Allen & Unwin for the review copy.