Friday, June 8, 2012

Just finished "Outcasts United" (kids' version)

I'm reading through boxes and boxes of galleys for the fall season, and I just found the kind of well-written narrative non-fiction for kids I've been waiting for!!! It's the young reader's edition of Outcasts United by Warren St. John, coming from Random House Sept. 11, 2012.
Inspiring and informative, the book tells the true story of Luma Mufleh, a young woman from Jordan who moved to the US for college and decided she couldn't return to her home country after graduation; even though her parents threatened to cut ties with her, she wanted to take advantage of the opportunities available to women in the United States.
But in Atlanta, Luma felt lonely and isolated. She found joy in pick-up soccer games, and decided to start a youth soccer team for the children of refugees in nearby Clarkson, GA. She recruited and coached boys for under-13, under-15, and under-17 teams-- the Fugees. With some help from the local YMCA and Tracy, a young volunteer, she not only coached and managed the three teams, she also started a tutoring program to help the boys off the field. She assisted families with everything from paperwork to groceries to introducing the kids to trick-or-treating. She literally gives one boy the shoes off her feet. She's tough, she's strong, she's caring, and she's real.
But what really got me about this book is the way the author uses the boys' personal stories to teach an overview of atrocities of the modern world. Just a handful of players' backgrounds provide a shocking tour of the world's conflicts-- Sudan, Iraq, Bosnia, Congo, Liberia... St. John gives a clear overview of the situations and the boys' heartbreaking reasons for coming to the US. It made me get out a map to appreciate the global diversity of the Fugees. Then I wanted to get out my wallet to donate to the Fugees. And finally, I wanted to get out my old soccer cleats and play some soccer, because the kick-by-kick descriptions of some of the games were that exciting!
I haven't read the original version of this book, but the kids' version is extremely satisfying. It will be a great discussion book, a fabulous gift, and a wonderful read for kids who are curious about the world, kids who like soccer, or kids who just enjoy a good story about likeable underdogs. 

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