Young Pele

pele.gifYoung Pele: Soccer’s First Star (Schwartz & Wade, $16.99), by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by James E. Ransome, also features shoes, or the lack of them, as a major story element. Edson Arantes do Nascimento, or Pele, grew up poor in Bauru, Brazil. He had trouble concentrating in school and was frequently punished by his teachers for not paying attention. His spare time was consumed with soccer or “football” as it was called in Brazil. He spent hours with his friends kicking a sock stuffed with rags and tied with string. None of the children could afford shoes. As they got better, they challenged the factory workers coming off their shift to play. Soon the children were winning these impromptu matches! They became known as the Shoeless Ones, and were not invited to play in a tournament sponsored by the mayor because they didn’t have shoes. A salesman offered to help find some used shoes. They were badly worn and oddly -sized, but the salesman said, “Pe de pobre nao tem tamanho,” which in Portugese means “the foot of the poor man doesn’t have a size.” The children were thrilled because this meant they could play in the tournament and show off their skills. In front of 5,000 screaming fans, Pele and his team demonstrated their intricate teamwork and won the tournament. What a great experience to read these two stories together. Young readers will have to unpack the values of each culture to talk about the importance of shoes to the children in each story.


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