Saturday, April 7, 2012

Middle Grade Reader: Zoe the Fearless (by Joachim Masannek)

Summary of Zoe the Fearless (by Joachim Masannek)
Zoe longs to shed her frilly girl soccer team to play “real” soccer with the boys.  Just as she gets an offer from the boys’ team to play, her father moves the family across the country.  Zoe deals with conflicting feelings about the move, the affects of her mother’s recent passing, and her dreams of playing pro soccer.   When Zoe gets the opportunity to try out for an all boys soccer team—the Wild Soccer Bunch—in her new town, she is thrilled.  When her try out is sabotaged by the girl-biased boys on the team, she is discouraged and angry.  Her father and grandmother help her come up with a plan for a rematch with the Wild Soccer Bunch boys.  Zoe learns some valuable lessons about fear, friendship, and family.


Evaluation
Zoe the Fearless is the third book in the popular The Wild Soccer Bunch series (see review of books #2 Diego the Tornado).  Zoe defies traditional gender roles.  She loves to dress in soccer jerseys and athletic shoes.  She longs to play rough and tumble soccer with the boys.  Her big dream is to be a professional athlete.  Her grandmother tries to coerce her into femininity but to no avail.   Not only does Zoe have to counter the rigid expectations her grandmother has for her behavior, she has to grapple with gender-bias from the boys her age.  The Wild Soccer Bunch is convinced she cannot keep up with them because she is a girl.  Later, another group of boys bullies her for her boyish clothes while trying to force her to kiss one of them.  Author Joachim Masannek captures in the small microcosm of Zoe's world the prejudices and harassment that young girls often face. Zoe, with some guidance from her family, navigates through the tumultuous waters of pre-adolescence with courage and dignity.

Zoe is a bit rough around the edges as the novel opens.  She comes across arrogant, sassy, and stubborn.  The circumstances of her story prompt her to become more humble, teachable, and caring.  One of the best lessons of the book is Zoe's realization that revenge can be sweet, but it is lonely.  People and friendship are far more important than showing off or winning.  

Unlike so many children's books, this series has parents/adults who are primarily depicted as involved and caring.  Even though they often help positively influence the choices of the characters, their role is not obtrusive.  The focus is on the children making choices and interacting with their peers.  The reader walks away with the sense that adults can be trusted and helpful.  

Zoe the Fearless will no doubt appeal to young readers (and especially soccer fans)--both boys and girls.  There is lots of thrilling action for the tween reader along with some worthwhile moments highlighting interpersonal relationships and overcoming obstacles.  The big print, line spacing, short chapters, and sporadic pictures make the book ideal for reluctant readers who get overwhelmed with many chapter books.  I recommend Zoe the Fearless for ages 8-12.  

This post is linking up with Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wanna Be Scribe.  

Disclaimer: As per FTC guidelines, I received a copy of Zoe the Fearless from the publishers in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation. All opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone.

3 comments:

  1. I love hearing about books that keep parents in the story in a caring but not over-involved way. This sounds like a great story; thank you for sharing about it.

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  2. This sounds like a great book that kids can relate to. Thanks so much for sharing it.

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  3. Love that this is a book both girls and boys will like. Zoe sounds like a great main character. Thanks so much for sharing!

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