Mitch Johnson


All 80 titles for the six categories of our long list have now been reviewed! Each and every one a fantastic book, highly recommended by JAB and the NSTAB team.

The short list will be announced on the 8th September. Votes from the panel are already coming in so here's a little reminder of the twelve fabulous books on the Moving On Category Long List.


The Polar Bear Explorers' Club- Alex Bell (Faber and Faber)


Twister- Juliette Forrest (Scholastic)


The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole- Michelle Cuevas     (Simon and Schuster) 


Ella on the Outside- Cath Howe (Nosy Crow)

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Tin - Padraig Kenny (Chicken House)

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Running on Empty- S E Durrant (Nosy Crow)


The Children of Castle Rock- Natasha Farrant (Faber and Faber)


 Kick- Mitch Johnson (Usborne)


The Eye of the North- Sinead O'Hart (Stripes)


Charlie and Me – Mark Lowery (Piccadilly)


How to Bee- Bren MacDibble (Old Barn Books)

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Herstory  Katherine Halligan  (Nosy Crow)

Which four of these fabulous books will make it to the short list?



Budi has a plan- he dreams of playing football from Real Madrid. Every chance he has, he plays with his friends, focusing on his goal. But his life is a million miles away from his fantasy. Every day, he stitches football boots for others in cruel conditions, earning a pittance. Life is tough in Jakarta where he lives, yet he steadfastly believes in his dream.

Things go from bad to worse when Budi comes to the attention of The Dragon, the most feared man in Jakarta. Now so much more than Budi's dreams are at stake...

Endorsed by Amnesty International, this is a powerful, poignant book about the horrors of child labour, exploitation and cruelty. It brings into sharp focus the 'hidden' lives of those we don't see and so many are unaware of and should provoke countless conversations about things we take for granted and the true price that is paid for things we take for granted. It could be a bleak read because it highlights the life lived by many.

However, this is a story about resilience, about hopes and dreams. It is also about true friendship and family and how these can thrive in the worst circumstances.  Budi is an amazing character, beautifully developed, offering such an amazing outlook on life as your heart bleeds for him. His family offer love and support in the midst of everything and his friendship with Rochy is just wonderful to read. 

'Kick' is not an easy read, but it is an essential one. Thought provoking and challenging, it is perfect for our 'Moving On' category.

Kick    Mitch Johnson

Usborne     ISBN -9781474928151

You can read another review of 'Kick' here.


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


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.



Kick    Mitch Johnson

Usborne     ISBN -9781474928151