Kick

'Kick' is one of this term's JAB North chosen titles. 

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Budi wants to play football for Real Madrid- just like his hero Kieran Wakefield. This is the dream of many a 12-year-old but Budi lives in Jakarta, where life is tough. With no money for an education, Budi works 10 hour days in a factory, sewing the football boots which he believes are worn by his sporting idols.Conditions are cruel;  Budi earns only pennies but in spite of this and the foreman’s ‘rotan’, the earthquakes and the back breaking poverty, he steadfastly believes that, one day, he will have enough money to leave Indonesia and achieve his ambition- playing alongside his hero. That is until one stray kick in a ‘practice’ match with his friends puts a ball through the window of the criminal ‘Dragon’s’ house. The Dragon and his 'brothers’ control and extort Budi’s community- avoidance is the means to survive and now Budi’s ball has landed him right under the gangster’s nose, he’s in debt with the Dragon and all he has ever hoped for is in danger.

From the moment Budi slides on his knees and ‘makes the shape of a heart where the Real Madrid badge should be’, I knew I was reading an  exceptional story- a story that should be read by, or to, every Yr 6 and above.

In the vivid nightmare world of corruption and cruelty below the poverty line that Mitch Johnson has drawn, Budi’s resilience, humour and dogged determination  to make a better life for himself and his loved ones completely captures the reader. Budi uses hope as a fuel for survival in the brutal environments that he lives and works in-  something that is encouraged by his warm and loving family and his best friend, Rochy, who, is possibly the greatest ‘best friend’ in all of children’s literature.

The importance of ‘hope’ as a coping mechanism is dramatically  portrayed by a vast background of characters who are living without it. The gritty realism of this book makes your heart ache as much as Budi’s buoyancy and exuberance make your heart soar.

Adult and child  alike will be hooked by the instantly relatable, football-obsessed Budi, amused by his gentle but necessary humour and fully immersed in his world -so different to their comfortable reality.

The bitter truth that Budi’s life and your own exist side by side on the same planet is overwhelming and the reason why ‘Kick’ is so important. Books that you can feel are enormously powerful weapons to create change and ‘Kick’ is an incredible debut novel.

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Kick    Mitch Johnson

Usborne     ISBN -9781474928151