O’Donnell, L. (2009). Soccer Sabotage: A graphic guide adventure. Custer, WA: Orca Book Publishers.
Devin, the little brother to the team captain of the Lions soccer team tags along as an assistant coach to the Under-18 Canadian National Championships. While at practice, their coach is seriously injured and Devin suspects a foul play. (Ha! I’m hilarious)
While presenting a mystery, this graphic novel—one in a larger series—pauses the narrative occasionally to explain some of the proper techniques to play soccer, such as working as a team, being a good team captain, controlling the ball, defending, and scoring.
I like that the story features a women’s soccer team, but is still predominantly following the events with a boy. This should help both genders to engage with the text. Devin’s presence stops the graphic novel from becoming a “girl book,” but also shows girls’ being athletic and strong. It is also interesting to note, that there are multiple minority figures on the soccer team and all of the girls, except one, are shown to be skinny. While it is possible to make the argument that these are characters who are among the best at their sport, so of course they should all be healthy. An argument could also be made that there is “one token heavy girl.” Pick your side.
The illustrations neither hinder nor improve upon the story. The language and dialogue are neither painful nor poetic to read. Together the art and words express the information and narrative well, without distracting from their lessons or overall story. The mystery itself is fairly well crafted with multiple suspects.
Activities to do with the book:
This graphic novel would be great for a reluctant reader who is crazy about soccer, or for a little extra homework for middle grade members of a soccer team.
Students could also create their own panels of illustrations contributing their own knowledge about how to play soccer, or even make comics for other sports.
Students could also create a chart or poster of possible suspects and motives for hurting the Lions’ captain. While this technique could help organize all stories, with this book students have the fun pretence of pretending to be a detective.
A soccer team could try to reenact some of the games to learn the lessons presented in the book. Soccer Sabotage could also be used as a cautionary tale to encourage goodwill among team members.
“They call soccer the beautiful game. Watch international stars like Ronaldo or Beckham play the game and you’d have to agree. Watch my sister Nadia and you’d have your doubts.”
“I’m coach for less than a minute and I’ve already got a mutiny on my hands.”
“Maybe I’d read too many detective comics, but seeing Nate lying on the ground sent my stomach tumbling and that told me one thing: This wasn’t an accident. Nate was pushed.”