Honest Critiques

No, I mean it. REAL honest. Email your excerpts or full stories, up to 1000 words or so, to honestcrits [at] yahoo [dot] co [dot] uk. Synopses would also be welcome. My backlog is so daunting now that I recommend not submitting anything you are not prepared to wait a couple of months for a response on.
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  • Friday, August 19, 2005

    The Boy Who Was A Football

    There once was a boy who really loved football. He watched every match he could on the television. He went to every home match with his father. He went down to the park every Sunday morning, come rain or shine, to watch the local football games.

    But this boy didn’t have dreams about being a goal-scorer. He didn’t want to be a striker or a defender or the goalie or even the referee. He wanted to be the football.

    He practised crunching himself into a small ball and rolling around the lounge or the garden. He tried bouncing around his bedroom. Once he even broke his wrist when he fell off his cupboard while trying to bounce.

    Ouch! And this in a 4+ picture book text. We're in weird territory here, people.

    Obviously this child's insanity is a problem for his parents and his teacher, but the teacher has an idea:

    “Today”, he said, “we are going to do something special. We are going to have a big football match. I am going to divide the class into two and you,” he said, looking at the boy, “are going to be the football.” The boy’s eyes lit up and he could hardly stop himself from jumping in the air with delight.

    The class split into two and the boy walked to the middle of the pitch, rolled himself into a ball and waited for the game to start. The P.E. teacher blew his whistle and the game began. He was kicked from one side of the pitch to the other. Even the smallest child in his class got a chance to kick the boy who was a football.

    He's kicked savagely off the pitch by his classmates and the PE teacher picks him up for a throw-in:

    “NOOOO!” shouted the boy who was a football. “I don’t want to be a football any more”. The P.E. teacher lowered the boy and said “Are you sure?” “Yes” said the boy who was a football. “I don’t want to be a football ever again.”

    And the teacher looked at his mother and his mother looked at the teacher and they both smiled.

    I must say, it's a refreshing change to see a children's book as unashamedly violent and nasty as this. Usually when the child has a bizarre notion like this he's shunned and then saves the day and we all learn a valuable lesson about tolerance. Here he has his delusion leathered out of him by his peers and with the tacit approval of his mother. (Billy Elliot would only have been five minutes long set in this kid's school.)

    This is not going to sell. What with the broken wrists and the ceaseless kicking of a defenceless child, it's certainly too violent to be a picture book, and does not have a message that most publishers will want to get behind.

    If you had ten or so more tales as dark and dysfunctional as this, you might be able to bind them up with a Lemony Snicket cover look, some Edward Goreyesque art, and sell the book to 9+. That might be something.
    Torgo, 1:59 pm


    I like this. It reminds me of good ol' Struwwelpeter and all the other naughty kids who got punished for joking about the black guy and playing with matches.

    In a way it's too bad such books aren't published any more - Struwwelpeter surely didn't give me any nightmares, but it taught me not to play with matches. :)
    Blogger Gabriele C., at 8:37 pm  
    Hm, maybe this is the long-awaited children's picture book that breaks the harsh truth that no matter how much you believe in yourself there are some things you can't do?
    On the other hand the rhythm of the sentences felt kind of clunky.
    Blogger Barbara, at 9:08 pm  
    Those kind of morbid, cautionary tales are back in children's publishing - I think it's Lemony Snicket. This story, though, makes me feel sorry for the kid, which is not the usual pattern in the Struwwelpeter type.
    Blogger Torgo, at 9:54 pm  

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