Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Wild Soccer Bunch: Diego the Torando (by Joachim Masannek)

Summary of Diego, the Tornado:  
Fresh off their victory against the Untouchables (from Book 1:  Kevin, the Star Striker), the boys of the Wild Soccer Bunch are feeling confident and invincible.  The dynamics change when Fabio, son of a famous Brazilian professional soccer player, joins their class at school.  Fabio’s interest in the team prompts Diego to feel insecure and, therefore, defensive.  As Diego attempts to come to terms with possible changes, a bigger shift occurs.  Fabio’s father forbids him from playing with the Wild Soccer Bunch because they are not a “real” team, causing the boys to feel downtrodden and discouraged.  With some guidance from his mother, Diego helps the team refocus.  They create their own jerseys, write a player's contract, and look for sponsors.  Next, they work on the field until their muscles are fatigued and they fall into bed each night.  They are determined to beat the toughest team in town to prove they are a “real” soccer team.  Unfortunately, the Wild Soccer Bunch does not win the game, despite their best efforts.  The team does learn some valuable lessons though. 

The cover of Diego, the Tornado is appealing, especially for boys who will love the subjects of rowdy group play and soccer.   The text is a medium range font, ideal for middle readers.  Pictures often break up the text and the chapters are short which will help reluctant readers who get overwhelmed by the too much text at once. 

There are many characters in the book, but they are introduced in the first chapter to help readers become familiar with them and keep track of who’s who.   The focus in this book is primarily on Diego, the first person narrator.   He grows in the book from a shy, asthmatic boy to a courageous leader—excellent opportunity to discuss characterization here.  He also has a good relationship with his mother who acts in both the maternal and paternal role.   I appreciate the positive parental/adult model in her and the Wild Soccer Bunches’ coach, Larry. 

Several positive motifs are the focus—team work, perseverance, hard work, diligence, and determination.   A realistic outcome to the big game is advantageous.  It is an opportunity to discuss that even when we work our hardiest, the result does not always come out like we desire.  Sometimes more can be learned from our “failures” than from our successes though.

Unfortunately, there are a couple character issues that as a parent I did not appreciate.  A few times the boys were disrespectful to adults and in one instance the team blackmailed an adult.  This type of behavior is standard fare in many early and middle readers—though it should not be.   In Diego, the Tornado it is minimal comparatively. 

Overall, the Wild Soccer Bunch series is riotous fun.  There are many excellent character qualities and realistic situations ideal for parental or teacher discussion.  I recommend the series for children ages 9-12. 

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