More than a Kick: Footy, the Photo and Me

More than a Kick: Footy, the Photo and Me

More than a Kick: Footy, the Photo and Me










More than a Kick: Footy, the Photo and Me

Tayla Harris and Jennifer Castles

A & U Children’s, 2020

192pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99


Sunday, March 17, 2019 and Tayla Harris goes to work as normal, just as she has every other day. But this was to be no ordinary day – not only was it the last round of the AFLW home-and-away matches to determine which team would be in the finals, but it was the day Tayla was propelled into the media in a way she never sought nor wanted.

During the match, she kicked a goal and photographer Michael Wilson snapped the action as it happened.  Ordinarily, it would be no big deal but when it was published online to showcase her amazing athletic ability, suddenly the faceless trolls who hide behind their keyboards decided she was fair game and the photo went viral, along with a plethora of nasty comments that turned it into something it was not. Rather than being a photo of an athlete at work, it became a war of words – a war that hit the headlines here and overseas. And because 7AFL chose to remove the photo rather than hold the trolls accountable, it attracted even more attention. 

The photo...

The photo….

In this frank and very personal memoir of that time, Harris speaks directly to the reader about the impact that it had on her as an individual and as a footy player and her concerns for herself, her family and the families of those who felt it was OK to write what was essentially sexual abuse. She notes that she was “lucky” because she had a manager, a family and a community who rallied around her to support her through the furore, but she is very concerned for those who suffer similar bullying and do so, alone and often in secret. 

Whether readers are footy fans or not, know who Tayla Harris is or not, this is a powerful story that shows the power of social media and the consequences of those faceless remarks that so many seem to think they have the right to make.  For our girls wanting to aspire to the highest level of sport, it is inspirational; for those who are suffering at the hands of these anonymous cowards it offers hope and guidance; for those who write such trash, it is an eye-opener into what their words can do.  For Tayla, it resulted in a statue in Federation Square and a boost to women’s football that was unprecedented, but sadly, for some like Dolly Everett it is a burden too tough to bear.  That’s why, despite not usually reviewing books for the age group that this is written for, I’m sharing Tayla’s story because this is a story that needs to be heard over and over and over – until the haters and trolls are held accountable and responsible for their actions.

The statue... (Daily Mail, UK))

The statue… (Daily Mail, UK))



Monkey’s Tail

Monkey's Tail

Monkey’s Tail










Monkey’s Tail

Alex Rance

Shane McG

Allen & Unwin, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


Howler Monkey loved to climb.  He learned as a baby from his father and he practised and practised until he got so good at it that animals from all over the world would watch him.  But one day he fell and damaged his tail so badly that he could not climb any more. He hid his injury because he was ashamed and scared that his family and friends would not like him because he couldn’t do the one thing that gave them pleasure.  He became so sad that he sought the advice of Oldest Monkey who asked some really pertinent questions that helped Howler Monkey understand that he still had family and friends who loved him, he could still be the role model he was – just in a different way – and that what he did did not define who he was.

Rance, the author, was an elite Australian Rules player for the Richmond Tigers and was a member of the team that won the premiership in 2017, a feat that they hadn’t achieved since 1980. But in 2019 he ruptured his ACL in the first game of the season, ending his playing days for the year, and most likely for ever. These life-changing events have been the inspiration for this series of stories including Tiger’s Roar and Rabbit’s Hop, to help young children deal with the highs and lows of life and understand that why they do things is much more important that what it is they do.  If they understand their motivation, then their actions (whether positive or negative) can be chosen, challenged and changed to suit the circumstances and it is the whole of who they are that defines them, not just one aspect.

Even without knowing the author’s personal story, young readers will appreciate this book and Howler Monkey’s predicament, particularly as they return to school and even to team sports where their lives may have changed considerably post-pandemic. The playing field might now be closer to level.


Super Sporty Girls

Super Sporty Girls

Super Sporty Girls










Super Sporty Girls

Puffin Books, 2020

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


The publication date of this book was timed to capture the inspiration for sport that would be generated by the 2020 Olympics, but, as we know, even bigger world events have overtaken that one and they have been postponed.  Nevertheless, the timing is still appropriate as we emerge from the more rigid parameters of lockdown and people are itching to get back outside, connect with others and  get moving.

Using the format of a young girl wanting to get involved in something but not sure what and musing on what she likes to do and how that could marry with a sport, the reader is introduced to 18 of Australia’s young, contemporary sportswomen who are at the top of their game and providing inspiration for young girls. Apart from the household names like Ash Barty and Sam Kerr, there are others who are not so well known yet, including Paralympians. individuals and team-players.

The world after Covid-19 is predicted to be very different, perhaps one where the value of movement, exercise and fresh air will not be taken for granted and we will find our young girls with a thirst for activity, adventure, friendships, and developing new skills that could take them down new paths well beyond their dreams. 

Rocky and Louie

Rocky and Louie

Rocky and Louie










Rocky and Louie

Phil Walleystack & Raewyn Caisley

Dub Leffler

Puffin, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Rocky is a star Aussie Rules player and his little brother Louie adores him.  Rocky has taught Louie all sorts of footballing skills but more than that, he has taught him about their country and how to engage with it to both use it and protect it.  After they made a proper hunting boomerang together, Rocky taught him how to respect the animals and even though they might kill them for food, how to think about where that food comes from.  Rocky taught and Louie learned the legends and lessons of the land, forging a strong bond that would ensure that they would endure.

But Rocky has a dream to become more than just a local football star and to do that he must leave.  Louie is devastated but Rocky knows that he must go, just as Louie must stay.  What could Louie offer him to make sure that Rocky doesn’t forget him or his roots despite the pull and the attractions of the city.

While this is a powerful story about the love and bonds shared between brothers, it has an even stronger message about being connected to our heritage whatever that may be.  In this case it is that of Australia’s indigenous people and the lessons Rocky teaches Louie will help the reader understand that deep connection to country that our Aboriginal peoples have, helping them appreciate why they felt so bereft when so many were uprooted ruthlessly from families, events commemorated on  National Sorry Day on May 26. The theme of responsibility and respect for what has gone before that has shaped us into who we are now is very strong, but it also opens up the prospect of having to deal with change, with having to be unselfish and let others follow their destiny regardless of the impact on our comfort zone, and accepting and acknowledging that we are who we are because of those around us and we must be the best we can be to honour that and them. 

Co-written with Noongar man and emerging elder, Phil Walleystack, Raewyn Caisley (who has already given us the hauntingly beautiful Hello from Nowhere and Something Wonderful ) views this as her legacy with “the power to change our nation”.  For so many reasons, she could well be right.

Twelve Days of Kindness

Twelve Days of Kindness

Twelve Days of Kindness









Twelve Days of Kindness

Cori Brooke

Fiona Burrows

New Frontier, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Nabila is the new girl in school and like many new kids, she’s finding it hard to fit in with the established crew, particularly when she looks different to them and eats her strange lunches alone. But Holly comes to her rescue as their common love for soccer takes over.  But when both Holly and Nabila are picked for the school team, there is still disunity and the two girls realise if they are to come together to play well, they need a plan…

A search for “Twelve Days of Kindness” on the Internet brings up a number of projects and resources, mostly connected to Christmas but this is something that could be developed by a group or an individual at anytime to promote kindness, compassion, empathy and build something harmonious. Some schools like to take students on camp in the early days of Term 1 to build bonds for a successful year, but if this is not viable, organising something like Twelve Days of Kindness could be an alternative.  Having students directly involved by having them articulate those things they don’t like and identifying how such behaviour can be changed and the environment they would like to be in gives ownership and helps them understand the power to change is in their hands.  Promoting empathy activities  rather than always focusing on the ‘don’ts’ of bullying can be a new approach that has an impact by making it personal.  Again, the solution is theirs to decide and implement.

Author of the CBCA shortlisted All I Want for Christmas is Rain, (as appropriate now as it was in 2016) Brooke has again delivered a story that promotes thought and inspires action.















Lydia Williams

Lucinda Gifford

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. 


WWE SmackDown 20 Years and Counting

WWE SmackDown 20 Years and Counting

WWE SmackDown 20 Years and Counting










WWE SmackDown 20 Years and Counting

DK. 2019

200pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99


In April 1999, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) launched Smackdown on television and it became an instant success, and 20 years on, not only is it still being screened but many of the participants are now household names.

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, this is a collection of the most notable highlights of the series, both in the ring and behind-the-scenes, accompanied by spectacular full-colour photographs from WWE’s own archive.

Whatever one’s personal views might be on the show in particular and wrestling in general, this is one of those books that young boys will pore over, sharing their discoveries and thoughts together and building their literacy skills in that communal way that seems to be a critical part of their development. For that reason alone it should be in your collection, but being a definitive history of this popular show, it will also be sought after by the fans of both the show and the sport.

The Football Book – Post World Cup Edition

The Football Book - Post World Cup Edition

The Football Book – Post World Cup Edition











The Football Book – Post World Cup Edition

David Goldblatt & Johnny Acton

DK, 2018

400pp., hbk., RRP $39.99


With the northern hemisphere competitions gathering momentum, and the Australian A-League beginning and garnering more attention because of Usain Bolt’s participation, this book about the most popular sport in the world written to include the latest information from the 2018 FIFA World Cup is likely to become a much-loved, much-discussed addition to your collection as your young soccer fans pore over it. 

Beginning with a section on the origins of football which go back into ancient times and how it is now a global sport – about 250 million people play it regularly and if footballers were a nation, it would be the 4th most populous on Earth – it continues with comprehensive chapters about how the game is played; teamwork; the individual skills and how to master them; and then individual guides to the various nations who play; the World Cup and world records. There is an outline of Australia’s national achievements, each team in the A-league and even names those players who were eligible to play for Australia but who chose other teams instead. It really is 400 pages crammed with information for both the novice and the aficionado, regardless of which side of the boundary line you are on. 

However, while the Women’s World Cup has its own double spread, the book’s focus is predominantly on the male game with even the gender-neutral sections like How the Game is Played featuring male characters and champions.  

With illustrations, maps, charts, diagrams and easily readable text, this is one that will be a communal read in the library, turning reluctant readers into real readers, as well as one that will fit snugly into a Christmas stocking.


The Champion Charlies (series)

Champion Charlies

Champion Charlies






The Champion Charlies

Adrian Beck

Random House, 2018 

152pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


The Mix-Up


Boot It


The Knockout Cup


The Grand Finale



Charles was the best player in the boys’ football team and Charlotte was the best player in the girls’ side.  But this season they’re both playing in the same mixed team.

Is there room for two champion Charlies on the one side? Can they get past their rivalry to help form the greatest football team Jindaberg Primary has ever seen?

Developed in partnership with Football Federation Australia and released in time for the FIFA World Cup, soccer fans will enjoy this new series, particularly those who are newly independent readers as there is a lot of textual and graphic support to sustain their efforts. With characters the reader can relate to, familiar obstacles to overcome and an in-built rivalry as well as the external one of playing another team, each episode builds up into a page-turning climax that makes you want to find out what happened.

There are four in the series – The Mix Up, Boot It, The Knockout Cup and The Grand Finale – each leading on from the other and fans will be happy that the final two have now been released! 

Currently soccer-mad Miss 7’s favourite series, they have been the perfect bridge into novels for her and she is eagerly waiting for these new ones to be in her mailbox so she can find out what happens and put what she learns into practice on the field! 

Another great series focusing on Australian sports and familiar names that not only encourages our children to read but also get outdoors and play.

Big Bash League (series)

Big Bash League

Big Bash League






Big Bash League

Michael Panckridge

Random House Australia, 2017

144pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

Academy Smash


Championship Dash


Representative Clash


Carnival Clash


Just in time for the new cricket season come four additions to this popular series which focuses on the Big Bash League. the professional  Twenty20 domestic cricket competition in Australia. With the Australian women’s team retaining The Ashes  this will be a competition eagerly followed by both boys and girls and, so, to have new episodes in print will be eagerly sought.  

In Academy Smash Billy loves to bowl – fast! He’s also a massive Melbourne Stars fan and when his friend Wen-Lee lets him know about a cricket academy camp, run by none other than the Stars, Billy is desperate to go! So is Wen-Lee, even if she does barrack for the Brisbane Heat. Trouble is, the applications are about to close and Billy needs to find a way to raise money for the entry fee. Perhaps a speed-bowling competition is in order!

Championship Dash  features The Kangaroo Flat Galahs who are preparing for their annual match against the Edenhope Eagles. The stakes are high with the winner qualifying for the State T20 Championships in Perth. They’ll also receive tickets to the Perth Scorchers versus Melbourne Renegades double-header! The Galahs haven’t beaten the Eagles in 30 years, but that was before they had the mysterious and brilliant Allunga on their team. Can they finally turn the tables?

Representative Clash , the 7th in the series focuses on Tommy who is a huge hitter and loves nothing more than smashing balls out of the park with his impressive handmade bat. He’s a diehard Hobart Hurricanes fan and has his fingers crossed that he will be selected for the Hobart representative team that will take on Adelaide in the upcoming Adelbart Clash. But when Tommy’s bat goes missing he can feel his chances slipping away. It’s up to his friends to help him find his bat so he can chase his place on the rep team!

The final story in this collection Carnival Clash culminates in the first T20 Crickomania Carnival and two teams of kids have been selected to represent the Sydney Sixers and Sydney Thunder. Maddie, Chase and Jye are a few of the lucky ones and they can’t wait to test out their cricket skills and meet some BBL and WBBL players. The event begins with lots of excitement but also some strange occurrences. There’s a mix up with the coaches, unexplained rules and an opposing team who really wants to win. Can everyone pull together to make the carnival a success?

Definitely a series for the cricket lovers and one to recommend to parents to keep reading going over the long summer holidays!