Happy Like Soccer
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Happy Like Soccer

by Maribeth Boelts, Lauren Castillo

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A warmhearted story about a young girl who finds a way to bring together the two things that make her most happy- soccer and her family.

Nothing makes Sierra happy like soccer. Her shoes have flames as she spins the ball down the spread-out sea of grass. But nothing makes her sad like soccer, too, because the restaurant where her auntie works is busy on game


A warmhearted story about a young girl who finds a way to bring together the two things that make her most happy- soccer and her family.

Nothing makes Sierra happy like soccer. Her shoes have flames as she spins the ball down the spread-out sea of grass. But nothing makes her sad like soccer, too, because the restaurant where her auntie works is busy on game days and she can’t take time off to watch Sierra play. On game days, her auntie helps Sierra get ready and tells her, "Play hard and have fun." And Sierra does, but she can’t help wishing she had someone there to root for her by name, and not just by the number on her uniform. With honesty and rare subtlety, author Maribeth Boelts and illustrator Lauren Castillo portray an endearing character in a moving, uplifting story that touches on the divides children navigate every day- and remind us that everyone needs someone to cheer them on from the sidelines.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
A thought-provoking read-aloud.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Publishers Weekly
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)
Children's Literature - Carrie Hane Hung
Dressed in her shoes with flames, Sierra loves to play soccer. She is selected to play on a soccer team that has games outside of her neighborhood. Sierra lives with her aunt who works at a restaurant. Although her aunt always helps Sierra get ready for the soccer games, her aunt is not able to take time off of work to watch Sierra play. Sierra wishes that her aunt could attend the games to cheer from the sidelines like the families of her teammates. Watercolor illustrations fill the pages of this book; light is used to bring joy or hope in the settings. There are some gaps in the context of the story that may leave the readers wondering. Sierra has a close relationship with her aunt; however, the story does not explain why Sierra lives with her aunt. In the story, Sierra refers to the empty lot where children in her neighborhood play, but in the illustrations there is no evidence of children using the empty lot to play. Sierra clearly goes out of her neighborhood to play soccer yet the story does not clearly reveal why Sierra is selected to play on the new team. There is a heartwarming ending to Sierra's story as she fin ally resolves the conflict. Reviewer: Carrie Hane Hung
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—Nothing makes Sierra happier than playing soccer, especially now that she has been picked for a new team where she gets to play on a smooth field instead of the ragtag lot near her home. But there is sadness, too, because her auntie, with whom Sierra lives, has to work on Saturdays and can't watch her play. Sierra plays hard in every game, but longs to have someone she knows rooting on the sidelines. When her aunt's boss lets her switch her shift at the restaurant so she can go to Sierra's last game, they celebrate with a made-up dance and cherry cake. Unfortunately, the game is canceled because of rain. Sierra asks Coach Marco if he can reschedule it on her aunt's day off, at the lot near their apartment. Happy to be playing in front of her auntie and neighbors, Sierra runs so fast, it feels like flying. This tender story, written in lyrical text, perfectly blends the protagonist's joy at playing her favorite sport with the loneliness of being the new kid in unfamiliar territory. Castillo's muted colors reflect the narrator's thoughtful mood. Sierra's and her auntie's shaded skin tones and the spreads of the long bus ride from their city neighborhood to the suburban soccer field enhance the text by subtly suggesting why Sierra feels slightly out-of-place while playing with her new team. This quiet gem is lovely for one-on-one sharing.—Martha Simpson, Stratford Library Association, CT
Kirkus Reviews
Soccer is a bittersweet mix of sorrow and joy for Sierra. Sierra struggles with conflicting emotions about her new soccer team. Traveling out of the city, Sierra now plays on soccer fields unlike the one near the apartment where she lives with her aunt, which is exciting. However, being on this new team has some drawbacks. With most games on Saturdays--which is her aunt's busiest day at the restaurant--Sierra is sad to be the only player without family members to cheer for her during games. Yet, with a little ingenuity, Sierra discovers a solution to her dilemma. Boelts focuses on the relationship between Sierra and her aunt, deftly portraying Sierra's maturity and fortitude as she attempts to resolve the situation. Sierra, while dedicated to her sport, recognizes the importance and inspiring effect of her aunt's support and encouragement. Castillo's watercolor-and-ink illustrations of the city's landscapes feature towering buildings in an austere setting. In contrast, drawings of Sierra's home and her aunt's workplace depict warm, cozy scenes. Scenes with the dark-skinned, crinkly-haired auntie and niece emphasize the close, nurturing relationship. Action-filled paintings of the soccer games capture the fast-paced excitement of the game. Boelts' quiet tale celebrates the perseverance of a young girl as she attempts to achieve her goals. (Picture book. 5-9)

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
10.00(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.20(d)
NC1050L (what's this?)
Age Range:
5 - 9 Years

Meet the Author

Maribeth Boelts is the author of many books for children, including Those Shoes, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones, which was a Charlotte Zolotow Award Highly Commended Title. About Happy Like Soccer, she says, "Coaching soccer for a number of years, I saw the amazing impact a cheering family could have on a child-someone who knows and loves us and will root us on." Maribeth Boelts lives in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Lauren Castillo has illustrated many books for children. This is her first book with Candlewick Press. She lives in Brooklyn.

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