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Friday, 24 February 2017

Frankie's Magic Football Series

Author: Frank Lampard / Lamps On Productions
Illustrations: Lamps On Productions
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2014-

Whether these books are all completely penned by British footballer Frank Lampard himself, or underwritten by the copyrighted 'Lamps on Production' team is absolutely of no interest on concern to me. Whether Frank Lampard has one of the highest ever IQ scores recorded by Mensa (see his wiki- it's also somewhat of an urban legend when these books are mentioned in the playground), no concern to me. Whether we, as parents, have read the tabloid tattle on Frank Lampard or not, take all this out the equation; this series of books brought reading alive to my boys, and I'll be forever grateful.

At around 5 years old, both Alf ( now 7) and Bert (currently 5) hit a plateau with their interest in reading. The books coming home from school tried their best to engage ( and follow a reading scheme) but they were all so generic and about baking muffins or finding a grasshopper in the garden. Frankie's Magic Football series fills the void perfectly. They're fantasy / adventure stories about friendship, teamwork and football. Frankie, is a school boy who accidentally comes to own a magic ball in the first book of the series, a ball that transports him and his friends back in time or to a different country or place in each book. Consequently my boys would be asking me about Romans one day, space exploration another, and Australia another according to which of the now 18 books in the two series they would be reading. While the context of the action changes, the main four characters in the series are a constant feature of all the books ( Frankie, Charlie, Max the dog, and notably, a key female character, Louise (who is skilled at football, brave and clever- thumbs up on the positive female representation)). 

Physically the books have some, but not many, cartoon black and white images; big, clear 
font and double-line spaced pages; collectable game cards ( perforated) at the back of each book; short chapters and roughly 100-150 pages- all attractive prospects for early readers. In terms of the vocabulary, again this is very well pitched, short descriptions, occasional metaphors, nothing too academic but at the same time there's a good range of words, plenty of adjectives. 

My boys have both found these books are very addictive, and have really risen to the idea of reading through a series. When they started reading these books ( roughly aged 5 and a half) they haven't been able to read these word for word, but the books are composed well enough that if a child can follow the gist of the story, that's enough: the narrative is cleverly summarised every so often and characters remember things and have flashbacks, so children can regain the gist quite easily. Alf and Bert got a real sense of satisfaction from the intertextuality in the series, and delighted in also cross referencing moments in the books with each other.  

To five year olds, the fact a footballer is a writer, talking to them, writing for them, is something very special. It gives these books credence; they are cool and credible even before they've started reading. Getting children to feel positive about reading, and that reading is not just something they have to do at school, but something they can do for pleasure, is hard if the 'appeal' is not there. Frankie's Magic Football series 1 and 2 appeals hugely, so thank you so much Frank Lampard, you helped us overcome the reading glitch and taught my children how to love literature. 

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