cover image Happy Like Soccer

Happy Like Soccer

Maribeth Boelts, illus. by Lauren Castillo. Candlewick, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-4616-5

The other girls on Sierra’s soccer team are surrounded by their families on game days, but Sierra’s auntie, a waitress, works Saturdays, and Sierra plays alone: the onlookers “cheer for me by the number on my uniform, not knowing my name.” The plan Sierra comes up with to allow her auntie to see her play—and the courage she summons to put it into action—give Boelt’s (Those Shoes) story unexpected emotional depth. Castillo’s (Melvin and His Boy) quiet ink-and-watercolor spreads make it clear that Sierra’s situation is different from that of the other girls, and that her auntie treasures her niece and keeps her safe. The fenced-in soccer field in Sierra’s urban neighborhood is scruffier than the team’s suburban field, but Sierra’s auntie’s apartment is cozy and welcoming, and so are her words. Class differences (“Then my ride comes, filled with laughing girls who know the jokes I don’t”) and the clash of city and suburban culture are clearly laid out, but softened by supportive adults (Coach Marco asks Sierra if there’s anything she needs, and means it). A thought-provoking read-aloud. Ages 5–9. (May)