If you've got or know a little one who loves the beautiful game, you've probably found yourself hunting out soccer books for kids.
Books always make great gifts. They are fun, educational and easy to wrap, so they tick all the boxes of last-minute buys for a child's birthday or treat. If the child in question loves soccer, the gift will be even better if you get them a book that also relates to that passion.
Soccer books for kids tend to fall into the two broad categories: instructional or tactical books and story books.
The instructional books usually guide the reader through the laws of the game, some basic advice on techniques, perhaps some training tips and an overview of common tactics and formations.
In all honesty, while these are soccer books for kids we suspect they are largely unread soccer books for kids. They are often quite dry to read and the information contained within the pages could be learnt more effectively through practical methods. In other words, getting out on a soccer pitch with a decent coach would be a much more fun way of picking up the same knowledge.
Within the non-fiction bracket, you can also get the biographical stories of soccer players and the annual-style accounts of particular leagues or clubs, but they tend to be aimed at a slightly older audience (perhaps around the early teens).
Soccer story books usually take the form of short novels or picture books. Our favourite soccer books for kids fall into the latter category, which explains why we were adopted a similar approach for our book World At Your Feet.
Young readers benefit from visual stimulation and prompts to accompany the words they are reading, so it makes sense to include illustration. And given how visual and colourful sporting events often are, soccer books for kids are especially well suited to incorporating artwork in a picture book style.
When it comes to narrative, soccer books for kids do have a habit of following a familiar storyline. It's not just books: comics, television programmes and films about soccer frequently follow the same pattern of sporting triumph over adversity.
We wanted to steer clear of that in World At Your Feet. We instead selected 16 of the best goals ever scored at a major international soccer tournament and presented each one as a standalone 'chapter' (which amounts to a double-page spread in picture book terms) written in rhyming verse. The commentary is written in the second person, referring to 'you' throughout, to encourage young readers to imagine themselves in each situation.
Since the story is based on real events, there is something in the book for parents and older readers, who may be familiar with some or all of the goals featured. This has the joint benefit of giving those older readers a nice nostalgic glow and also opening up the possibility of further discussion and research into each goal once the book has been read. Not many soccer books for kids offer that sort of opportunity.