the beautiful game…winning books for World Cup fans!

A friend of mine once described the World Cup as “waking up and finding out it’s going to be Christmas every day for a whole month!”

santa claus red hat on soccer ball at green grass

If you are fans of the beautiful game, I’ve no doubt these champion football/soccer books will be relished over the next month of exciting World Cup action.

First up, a few stories for the youngest of footballers:

the field cover image

The Field, by Baptiste Paul, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara
published in 2018 by NorthSouth Books

Join the kids at their makeshift pitch on this Caribbean island as they tear into a vivacious game of futbol.  Neither cows, nor rainstorms, nor mud puddles can keep these guys down.

the field interior by Paul and Alcantara

Breathless fun in a lovely Caribbean atmosphere augmented by Creole phrases.

the field interior2 by Paul and Alcantara

Alcántara’s illustrations exude energy and happiness. Ages 3 and up.

happy like soccer cover image

Happy Like Soccer, written by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
published in 2012 by Candlewick

Sierra loves playing soccer with her teammates yet longs for her auntie — the rock of her life — to be at a game to see her play.

happy like soccer interior by Boelts and Castillo

That’s not so easy, though, with her auntie’s work schedule and the games held in a more affluent neighborhood a long drive from home. With good guy Coach Marco to help, though, one special moment becomes much more than just another game.

happy like soccer interior2 by Boelts and Castillo

Heartwarming, endearing loveliness for ages 3 and up.

goal! cover image

Goal!, written by Mina Javaherbin, illustrated by A.G. Ford
published in 2010 by Candlewick Press

In a South African township, Ajani and his buddies are elated to be playing football with the new, federation-size ball Ajani has just won for being best reader in his class.

TJ212-7-09 US Cover 150L CTP.indd

Their after-school game is full of joy except for one thing — a gang of bullies that makes  the streets unsafe. Is there any way for Ajani and his friends to outwit the bullies, keep hold of their prime football, and become truly unbeatable?

A contemporary, South African setting. Dynamic, robust illustrations. Great story for ages 4 and up.

soccer star cover image

Soccer Star, written by Mina Javaherbin, illustrated by Renato Alarcão
published in 2014 by Candlewick Press

Paulo Marcelo Feliciano dreams of becoming a Brazilian star player, being hailed by throngs of fans as Felino! Felino!, and having the means to provide for his mom who has to work such long hours to support their family.

soccer star interior by Javaherbin and Alarcao

Meanwhile, Paulo’s life is full of the sights, sounds, and people of his favela, and the ripping beachfront games he plays with his great friends…and little sister! A brilliant story that captures the starry-eyed dreams of so many young footballers around the globe. Ages 4 and up.

Now, load up on these tremendous and true accounts for avid fans of all ages:

totally epic cover image

Totally Epic, True & Wacky Soccer Facts & Stories, by Puck, art by Jon Stollberg
published in 2017 by Duo Press

These 150 colorful pages of snappy, fascinating, funny, glorious soccer facts will certainly entertain your whole household!

totally epic interior2 by Duo Press

Dozens and dozens of epic moments in soccer, firsts, record-breakers, lucky rituals, soccer expressions from around the globe, and even a Soccer 101 primer  and rundown of some of the worldwide competitions are all here.

totally epic interior Duo Press

I predict your child will be reading this aloud to whoever is around to impress. Great fun for ages 8 to adult.

world cup kids handbook cover image

2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Kids’ Handbook, written by Kevin Pettman
published in 2018 by Carlton Kids
48 pages

A paperback manual tailor-made for this year’s World Cup, this features fascinating fact-bits about the mascot, stadiums, prizes, coaches, tactics, and players, as well as tournament charts to fill in, bingo-type things to spot throughout the tournament, puzzles, quizzes, stickers, player stats, and more.

world cup handbook interior by Pettman

If the World Cup truly is like a month of Christmas…

world cup handbook interior2 by Pettman

this would be a crackerjack little gift for your number one fan. Ages 8 and up.

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The Kingfisher Soccer Encyclopedia, by Clive Gifford
published in 2018 by Kingfisher

For true fact-hounds, this glossy, full-color-photo strewn Kingfisher encyclopedia will make ’em feel like a kid in a candy store.


Gobs of spreads about the game itself as well as profiles of star players, links to websites where they can gobble up more info, club histories, stats…it’s all here to share with the whole crowd watching the matches. Ages 8 through adult.

goal cover image

Goal! written by Sean Taylor, photographs by Caio Vilela
first published in Brazil; U.S. edition 2014 by Henry Holt and Company

Travel around the world with vivid photos featuring young soccer players from Brazil to Togo, Jordan to New Zealand.

goal photo2 by Caio Vilela

The photos alone are priceless. For each location there’s also a little illuminating soccer fact.  Find out where the first African professional player was from and how to yell, “Go Team!” in Chinese.

goal photo by Caio Vilela

Soccer truly brings the world together and that’s on full display here for ages 3 and up.

pele king of soccer cover image

Pelé: King of Soccer (El rey del fútbol), written by Monica Brown, illustrated by Rudy Gutiérrez, Spanish translation by Fernando Gayesky
published in 2009 by Harper Collins

This bilingual biography introduces Pelé, from his impoverished childhood, his tireless drilling of futbol skills, and invitation to play pro ball, to his stance as truly the King of Soccer.

pele king of soccer interior2 by Brown and Gutierrez

The fabulous artwork of Rudy Gutiérrez brings these pages to gorgeous, fluid, high velocity life.

pele king of soccer interior by Brown and Gutierrez

Text is complete in both English and Spanish. A striking book for ages 5 and up.


Neymar: A Soccer Dream Come True, by Mina Javaherbin, illustrated by Paul Hoppe
published in 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

This fictionalized biography of one of the world’s biggest current stars is sure to tantalize many young fans.

Neymar interior2 by Javaherbin and Hoppe

Watch Neymar grow up, imagining greatness even as he plays with cousins, announcing awesome moves as though he were calling the game for national television. I have to believe that thousands of young players will totally relate to this; I remember my own brother pretend-announcing fiery slap shots in our kitchen when we were growing up.

neymar interior by Javaherbin and Hoppe

Cool illustration work bridges the youthful imagination and current, superb athleticism of one of Brazil’s most popular players. Ages 5 and up.


World Cup: An Action-Packed Look at Soccer’s Biggest Competition, written by Matt Christopher
Revised edition published in 2018 by Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Finally, these 192 pages of soccer history read like a Kids Sports Illustrated. This updated edition covers every World Cup, bringing the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat to you in vivid detail.

For avid fans, this is a mouthwatering collection of soccer lore, history, and key moments, delivered with punch and clarity. Expect your soccer-gluttons and future color commentators to be utterly absorbed for hours. Ages 8 and up.