Neymar: A Soccer Dream Come True

illus. by Paul Hoppe. 32p. glossary. Farrar. May 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374310660.
Gr 1–3—This story functions less as a primer about Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior's life than as a dreamlike evocation of a boy's devotion to playing his favorite game. Readers follow the young player as he plays a pretend soccer match with family in his bedroom in his grandparents' home; comes to the table for his mother's delicious feijoada; and longs to spend more time with his father who plays for local clubs. The narrative breezes past the footballer's brief stint with the Real Madrid junior program in Spain. When he returns to play professionally for Santos, the former home of Brazilian soccer giant Pelé, he is treated to a celebratory visit from the big star upon winning the prestigious South American club tournament known as Copa Libertadores. Neymar's career at Barcelona and recent move to Paris Saint-Germain are only glancingly alluded to. Hoppe's gauzy illustrations, cast in subdued colors and a comic book—like shading, serve to bring out the exuberance of the players and the constant motion of the game. Drawing most often from a low angle with a wide horizon, Hoppe privileges a child's-eye view. In an author's note at the end, Javaherbin traces her soccer fandom to a visit with her father to see the Iranian national team play in Tehran.
VERDICT Recommended as a read-aloud and for helping to make a ubiquitous superstar athlete relatable to young readers.

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