Title: Ponga Boy
Authors: Phil Lebherz & Philip Reed
Publisher: Epic Press (July, 2009)
Hardcover: 180 pages
Genre: Sports fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5
Source: from the authors
It's World Cup fever at my house, despite the fact that although we loyally taped the 3 am matches, US lost to Ghana for their final match in the tournament. Still, they got to the round of 16. Not too shabby, and the last goal by Donovan will be historic in US soccer. I think our local AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) will be filled with boys and girls who are also glued to the World Cup this summer.
Ponga Boy, the story of a young up-and-coming soccer star from the little fishing village of Los Barilles, Mexico, comes at an appropriate time for middle readers who are interested in soccer. This is the book that could pull reluctant male readers into reading. Pitchu helps his father on their ponga (bait fishing boat), and on his spare time, he plays soccer with his town team. Although the boys play with homemade uniforms on a cement field, Pichu stands out for his gravity-defying moves. In one memorable game, a vacationing American soccer scout sees Pichu in action and offers him a scholarship to play soccer for the University of San Francisco. In America, Pichu faces many conflicts: prejudice, jealousy, and culture shock. Still, there are many Latino role models that help him along the way. Ultimately, Pichu must make a difficult choice and choose between his own opportunity and the opportunities of his family.
The drawback of this book for some reluctant readers actually has nothing to do with the story and more to do with the format (not enough white space, and the font is too small), as well as the fact that the book is in hard cover. Hopefully, when the movie version comes out, the book will be in paperback. This book is also in audio form and read by actor Tony Plana from the television show "Ugly Betty."
In a sentence:...he saw his father staring at him with a look he didn't understand. But years later, recalling this moment, Pichu would realize it was the going away look. His father knew his son had a special gift. He was proud of the gift, since it had come through his blood. But he also knew that the gift would take his son away from him to places that were not as simple and good as this life in Los Barriles. And in those places, his son would be hurt and changed and things would never be like this wonderful moment ever again (7).
Ponga Boy is a moving tale of an extraordinary boy and his love of soccer and family.