Abbeville Press ventures onto a new pitch in March, when the publisher launches its first sports series for children. World Soccer Legends, which focuses on major international professional teams and individual big-name players, starts up with seven titles. The 64-page, paper-over-board books are illustrated with full-color photographs and feature histories of the soccer clubs, player biographies, stats, and activities. The series’ debut is fortuitously timed, as the buzz about this summer’s World Cup builds.
This is the first time author Illugi Jökulsson, an Icelandic journalist and author of books on history, music, politics, and chess, as well as of several novels and five children’s books, has penned books on the subject of soccer. “When I started working with Icelandic publisher Sögur, we somehow came up with the idea that maybe I should try trying about the heroes of the soccer field, and so I tried and found I absolutely loved it,” he explained. “It was the fabulous Brazilian soccer team of the 1982 World Cup that really opened my eyes to the beauty of the sport. Soccer is such a dramatic and eventful sport that it also satisfies my craving for drama and action. And I love to collect and present information, so these books, with their endless supply of facts, are a great pleasure to write.”
Robert E. Abrams, Abbeville Press president and publisher, came across the World Soccer Legends series, originally published in Iceland by Sögur útgáfa, at the 2013 London Book Fair. He was impressed by the books’ strong visual component and informational content, but also had a personal incentive to acquire the books. “I guess you could call me a soccer dad, since my eight-year-old son is an American Youth Soccer Organization player,” he said. “Through him, I’ve been exposed to the current youth soccer world, which is growing quickly. Soccer is a dynamic sport and a great early entry into the world of physical fitness for both girls and boys. And major league soccer is finally getting increased visibility in the U.S., which I think is one of the very favorable and interesting aspects of globalization.” The inaugural volumes in the series are U.S. Men’s Team, FC Barcelona, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Messi, Ronaldo, and Zlatan.
Abrams, whose house has published numerous books on parenting, emphasizes the multi-generational appeal of the series. “I know how enthusiastic parents of young soccer players are about the sport, and these are books that parents and kids can share together, to bring the soccer experience off the field and into the home,” he said. “They are also great books for reluctant readers who are interested in books on subjects that deal with something exciting in their lives that isn’t necessarily school-related.”
AYSO officially endorsed the series after Abrams brought it to the attention of organization officials, and a portion of the proceeds from sales of the books will benefit the Hugo Bustamante AYSO Playership Fund, a national scholarship program that covers the cost of registration and uniforms for young soccer players in need. “This is a terrific aspect of the organization, and we are pleased to support this initiative to help fund kids whose families can’t afford the soccer fees,” said Abrams.
Lynn Berling-Manuel, chief marketing officer of AYSO, explained why the organization gave World Soccer Legends a thumbs-up. “The books combine the best of world soccer along with history, geography, and a glimpse into what it’s like growing up as a young soccer player in another country,” she said. “They are engaging and fun.”
U.S. Men’s Team: New Stars on the Field by Illugi Jökulsson. Abbeville Press, $12.95 Mar. ISBN 978-0-7892-1180-4
FC Barcelona: More than a Club by Illugi Jökulsson. Abbeville Press, $12.95 Mar. ISBN 978-0-7892-1158-3
Manchester United: The Biggest and the Best by Illugi Jökulsson. Abbeville Press, $12.95 Mar. ISBN 978-0-7892-1162-0
Real Madrid: The Most Successful Club in the World by Illugi Jökulsson. Abbeville Press, $12.95 Mar. ISBN 978-0-7892-1160-6
Messi by Illugi Jökulsson. Abbeville Press, $12.95 Mar. ISBN 978-0-7892-1164-4
Ronaldo by Illugi Jökulsson. Abbeville Press, $12.95 Mar. ISBN 978-0-7892-1166-8
Zlatan by Illugi Jökulsson. Abbeville Press, $12.95 Mar. ISBN 978-0-7892-1169-9