June 04, 2019

The New Football Coach

Written by Dominique Demers
Illustrated by Tony Ross
Translated by Sander Berg
Alma Junior (Alma Books)
96 pp.
Ages 6-9
May 2019

Miss Charlotte is back! The astounding woman who touched young lives with her unorthodox ways in The New Teacher (2016) and The Mysterious Librarian (2017) has returned and this time she has been recruited to coach the Black Duck Brook Football Club whose headmistress Paulette Pesky in in competition with her twin Yvette, headmistress at Blueberry Bay. In a turn of events, always the norm with Miss Charlotte, the question of "Who will win?" becomes "Does it matter as long as we're having fun as a team?"

The narrator of The New Football Coach is Jeremy who is hopeless at football, or soccer for North American fans, but whose father, owner of a Sports Plus store, is determined that his son will play. When Miss Charlotte comes along and begins her lessons with how to lose and talks to her football, whom she calls Anatole, top scorer Fred Ferocio ridicules her approach but, for the first time, Jeremy is enjoying himself. After she invites new team members, including Jeremy's non-athletic friend Billy Bungalow and others whom Fred classifies as rubbish, to join, Miss Charlotte's coaching involves the kids getting to know their own footballs and developing their own strategies as well as offering them a special and delicious drink called smalalamiam. Will it be enough for them to win their match against Blueberry Bay?

Miss Charlotte has the right idea about playing team sports.  She recognizes that
the best team is not the one which scores the most goals. It is the team that has the most passion, the most enthusiasm, the most positive energy. (pg. 51)
Any team could benefit from this wisdom and the Black Duck Football Club does as well. The other team may be all about the drive to win, even deliberately injuring a competitor, but they have nothing on Jeremy's team of have fun pushing forward with song, gymnastics and secret codes.

Dominique Demers's Miss Charlotte books, originally written in French, are filled with silliness and wisdom, lessons and heart. They are ideal for early readers, blending fun storytelling with positive messages. For young children trying to learn right from wrong, Dominique Demers's Miss Charlotte provides the right kind of guidance. It may be somewhat unconventional, not unlike Mary Poppins, but Miss Charlotte demonstrates that doing things differently may actually be better and, with the hype and intensity shown by some players, parents and coaches when it comes to sports, she seems to get it right.


n.b. For French-language readers, there are several editions of this series available, including one from Québec Amérique with seven volumes.

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