As well as playing and training for Chelsea (for the vast majority of his career), Manchester City (one season), and New York City (The US arm of Man City’s operations (we have Melbourne City in Aus)) and of course all his work with the England, Frank Lampard has penned a series of football novels for wee people.
Look, I have no doubt about Frank’s ability on the park. The length of his career, and that he was disliked so intensely by anyone who was not a Chelsea fan speaks volumes for his effectiveness as a player. I could not say with the same confidence that he has pumped out what will be 13 books by November this year (a little over 2 years since the first emerged). But…while that would normally be a bad thing, he has been incredibly enthusiastic in throwing himself behind the books. He’s promoted them at every opportunity and if wee people they’re aimed at are picking them up that can only be a good thing.
They’re short, not because he is, because they’re for young readers – mid primary school years – and work simplistically with the element of football fiction I looked to experiment with in my PhD novel. Fantasy. While there are a handful of examples in adult fiction, the combination of football and fantasy is surprisingly rare in young adult fiction. Frankie’s Magic Ball transports Frankie and his friends Mr Benn style to play against or sometomes with Aliens, Rowdy Romans, Pirates, Cowboys, Australians (I know!) and one of my favourites, a team of Menacing Mummies (if only because a still bandaged King Tut and a shiny Princess Cleo join his team). They make new friends, meet a number of strange animals, and of course play a lot of football – it’s the key element in building friendships and vanquishing the baddies. The stories are light, easy reading and there’s enough seat-edge risk to reader entertained.
My 8 year old smashed through the Cowboys one and asked if there were more. So clearly you don’t need to be reading them in sequence either. I was particularly pleased to see one set in Canada alongside the 2015 Women’s World Cup which the US won this morning incidentally (a crushing 5-2 victory against Japan).
Now, I haven’t read all Frankie’s books, 4 or 5 I think, but I would say that Little Brown, the publishers, have done a lovely job putting these together. Despite their best efforts (Frankie has a girl on his team) the books are primarily for young male readers, but they’re fun, light-hearted, and aimed perfectly at their reader.