THE RUNTON WEREWOLF. By Ritchie Perry Hutchinson Pounds 9.99.
Soccer mad? Ask most boys aged eight to 12 and the answer will be a resounding yes. But how do you get to be any good at it? With soccer courses proliferating and children becoming reluctant to go on holiday with their parents and miss out on six hours a day chasing a ball, this must be a question dear to the young male heart.
Bang in the 50-yard box, then, is Soccer Mad from Rob Childs (Corgi Pounds 2.99), the racily-written tale of how one boy takes his Sunday team of rag-tag juveniles to face the champions in the local league. If you can't guess the result you've been following too much football and not enough children's fiction.
Team Mates, a new series by Paul Cockburn, is equally racy in style, but pitched a little older. Teenage concerns of dress, social mores and embarrassing parents mix with the burning desire of friends Chris, Nick and Russell to rise to the top in professional sport. Their various adventures do speak to young male adolescents, but the typeface is very hard on the eyes.
Frances Fairweather - Demon Striker! by Derek Smith (Faber Pounds 5.99) is a politically correct look at gender and identity through the metaphor of football. It's not a bad read, either, though many of its target audience of nine-year-olds and up might find their credulity strained by the adventures of its heroine. Frances is so desperate to play footie that she disguises herself as a boy and scores successfully in a junior league team.
Slightly more unlikely, though less inspiring for sport-crazed girls, is The Runton Werewolf by Ritchie Perry. Twelve-year old Alan is really an alien werewolf but he loves football. I can't go on. Suffice to say that boys of a similar age find this tale deeply amusing.
From an adult point of view, there is no harm in it and it has the educational element of a French exchange. Personally, I'd settle for Cantona every time.