I have just finished the very lovely picture book ‘Kick with My Left Foot‘ by Paul Seden and Karen Briggs and if you wish to read your child a book about sheer perseverance, this is the one. It has been short listed by the Children’s Book Council of Australia for Book of the Year 2015 in the Crichton Award for New Illustrators category.
A young Aboriginal boy plays football alone, on an oval of red dirt. He pulls on his socks, shoes and begins to bounce and catch the ball. His absolute devotion to the game and the rudiments of playing, is obvious. His joy and determination to master the game with only his dog for company is amazing to see. He bounces, throws, and runs until finally, he must kick with his left foot. Here is the stumbling block. Kicking with his right foot feels natural and easy but with his left, the footy is slippery as an eel. He and his dog sit and ponder, misery obvious on their face. Then, like the trooper he is, he jumps up and just keeps on trying. HE CAN KICK WITH HIS LEFT FOOT!
I love that moment in the story. He reaches this mental destination of I CAN on his own. There are no army of child therapists, beseeching parents or stern coaches to propel this young footy player to succeed. He has autonomy over his own actions and acts upon it. The beautiful simplicity of this story is emphasised by illustrations that are clear and bright yet filled with energy and movement. It perfectly captures a child’s love of what his body can do. The colour is dense yet the reader can see the isolation and starkness of the Australian outback. This unique setting of course highlights the young boy’s sense of being alone but not lonely. He is confident in his ability to succeed in his environment. It reminded me of how sports can play such an important role in a child’s life, particularly when they spend most of their time outdoors or thinking about their favourite sport stars.
I really enjoy a story about children succeeding and especially when it has been done in such a simple, poignant manner. The sense of mindfulness in the story (living in the now) is a message to all readers, young and old.
You can see what the Cockburn Library staff think about other shortlisted books here.