Allen & Unwin, 2019
32pp., hbk. RRP $A19.99
Living alone in the Australian outback, Lydia loves her sport but she doesn’t have anyone apart from the animals to play with. And even then, she seems to be beaten before she starts. Kangaroo can bounce too high and blocks all her shots at the basketball ring; Emu gives her a good start in the running race but still whizzes by,; and even sleepy Koala has her covered when it comes to Aussie Rules. Lydia really wanted to be the best at something but didn’t know what that could be until Kangaroo suggests a game of soccer…
The author, Lydia Williams is an Indigenous Australian soccer player who grew up on the red dirt of Western Australia, travelling with her family to many Aboriginal communities where she learnt how to play sport with bare feet. Her family taught her how to live off the land and the values of Indigenous culture; they even had two pet kangaroos. When her family moved to Canberra, Lydia started playing soccer competitively as a way to make friends. Having played soccer for nearly twenty years, she currently plays for Melbourne City in the W-League. Lydia is the first-choice goalkeeper for the Australian Matildas, and is also signed to the Seattle Reign FC in the United States.
Using her experience and expertise, she has crafted a charming story for young readers about persevering to find your niche and being the best you can be. It wouldn’t have surprised me if the outcome of the story had been different because you just know that she would have dealt with either result well, echoing her real-life experience of leaving WA at 11 years old and having to forge a new life in Canberra, not only 3000km away but also a busy city! ‘”It’s a bit of an autobiography, a little bit of fantasy and has a good message as well. It has a unique take on it to go out in the world…It encourages kids that no matter what their background is or what challenges are in their way, they can have fun and actually achieve something they enjoy if put their mind to it.” You can learn more about her early life in this interview.
Accompanied by Lucinda Gifford’s delightful illustrations that echo the palette of the outback, this is a story with a difference because of its authenticity that will resonate with young readers particularly those with older siblings who seem to be better at things than they are.