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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Review: Frankie's Magic Football series by Frank Lampard


Those metaphorical high horses were being well and truly ridden recently following the announcement that Canongate will be publishing a series of classic fairy tales for children, reinterpreted by comedian Russell Brand. One article in particular, went as far as to pretty much demand that celebrities stop writing books for children. Said article was co-written by Tom Lamont, writer and commissioning editor for the Observer, and author Robert Muchamore. Mr Muchamore, to his credit, approached the subject in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner, adding some much needed humour to the vitriol spouted by Lamont. However, as with many articles such as this, it is the comments section that makes the most interesting reading. Russell Brand is hardly the most popular man in the world so an article like this is always going to attract some rather subjective comments, but what stands out the most is the general poor knowledge of commenters on the the current children's book market.

I toyed with writing a reply to Mr Lamont on this blog, but it was nearing the end of term and things were mad hectic. Then I read a blog post by one the best young bloggers around, who had heard about the article and wanted  to add her opinion. Georgia, the blogger in question, spookily echoed my own thoughts with her piece, but coming from her it sounds all that more relevant and so I urge you to head on over Georgia's blog at  http://booksandwritersjnr.wordpress.com/2014/04/08/celebrities-writing-books/ to read it.

And so we come, once again, to Frank Lampard's Frankie's Magic Football series. The rumours still persist that Mr Lampard has made considerable use of a ghost writer for these books, but whether he has nor not does not really matter in my opinion. I will reiterate what I said when I reviewed the first Frankie's Magic Football book, Frankie vs the Pirate Pillagers:
"I for one have absolutely no problem with Frank Lampard writing a series of books if even just one child picks one up, reads it and then asks his/her parents for more. I would imagine that many parents would agree with me. And that was my opinion before reading it. Now that I've read the first in the series I would suggest that Little, Brown extend the deal to even more books. Frankie vs The Pirate Pillagers is a fun read from beginning to end, and many kids will love it."
I have since read four more in this series, and my opinion remains the same. If Frank Lampard's name (or that of any other celebrity) can manage to get a child reading where parents and teachers are having little success then that can only be a good thing. Sure, these books are not going to end up shortlisted for any of the numerous children's book awards, but neither will the likes of Beast Quest, Cows in Action or the Skylanders books, and these have all helped many kids enjoy reading for the first time.

After beating the Pirate Pillagers, it seems that life will never be the same again for Frankie, Louise, Charlie and dog Max. They quickly discover that the magic football could open a portal at pretty much any time, and even if they aren't all together at the time all four of them will find themselves transported to another period in time. Over the course of the next four books they have to play against the Rowdy Romans, the Cowboy Crew, the Mummy's Menace and the Knight's Nasties. Even though the historical elements are not entirely accurate, there is enough there to get football mad readers asking questions about these periods in time. We should never forget that young minds are inquisitive, all they need is the right material to stimulate that natural curiosity.

Frank Lampard has had is fair share of stick from critics ever since the announcement about this series of books was made. However, this hasn't deterred him from continuing to encourage kids to read for pleasure. Last month he 'kicked off' this year's Premier League Reading Stars Programme, run by the National Literacy Trust. You can read more about the launch here and here.

Frankie and his friends have so far appeared in five books, and it looks as if there are at least two more to come. May will see the timely release of Frankie and the World Cup Carnival, to be followed in August by Frankie and The Dragon Curse.





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