Tag Archives: Sports stories

James Gong The Big Hit – Paul Collins



Hybrid Publishers

June 2020

ISBN 9781925736441

RRP: $16.99

Fourteen year old James Gong is pretty much a fairly average teenage boy living in suburbia with a family who are also pretty average – well in most respects. His mother rescues dogs and keeps them out the back of their house, to the frequent annoyance of neighbours, and counsels her pooches with tender dedication. His father does – well, James isn’t exactly sure what it is his father does but he likes to hope that his dad is a spy since his job seems to be so well-hidden (at least it is to James). He has an older sister Caitlin who can be a real pain, like most big sisters, who is always banging on trying to save whales, trees, the environment- really whatever cause is topical.

For the most part James’ life is pretty cool. He has his besties Jay and Ethan, school is tolerable and he is just about to qualify for his black belt in taekwondo under the instruction of the exacting and ferocious Mr Choi.  When a crew from TV show My Life arrive at the hall to film a segment for the program they are mightily impressed with James’ jumping spinning side kick, so much so that they want him to star in their upcoming blockbuster movie. Wow! Hollywood fame and fortune awaits for young James – or does it?

While James is super-excited about the movie role, except for the scene that involves a KISS with a lovely young girl, there are aspects about the whole filming process that baffle him – like the lack of sophisticated equipment, or sets or indeed costumes. Little does he know that Marcie and Win the film-makers are actually pulling a tax-dodge swifty.  Added to the confusion around the movie, James is still at loggerheads with his sister, fighting his weird attraction for Caitlin’s best friend Amber who scorns him with vigour and seriously neglects his taekwondo practice resulting in a  fail in his black belt grading.

To make matters worse when the movie premieres it’s so ludicrously hilarious instead of the big action film James was expecting so that now, instead of being a Hollywood superstar,  he feels like he’s losing out big time and that he’s the biggest fool alive.

But perhaps, just perhaps there are positives in the offing. I really don’t want to give away any spoilers but let’s just say that there are a few very tricky twists in James’ story that Paul Collins has managed without the slightest hint of contrivance.

I feel there will be many readers both boys and girls who will really get into this book. They will love the action, relate to the well-developed characters, chuckle at the humour, wince at James’ ineptitude and – okay, at times ‘denseness’ – but ultimately will rejoice with him and certainly  express their emotions at the biggest ‘ah ha’ moments.

I recommend this highly for readers from around 12 years upwards who I can guarantee will thoroughly enjoy it.  If you’re looking for a great read-aloud or shared novel this will make a fabulous addition with many levels and themes to explore throughout.

Check out some teaching notes here and given the disruptions to normal services you can order your copy here right now!

Super Sports Stories for Kids – Patrick Loughlin/illustrated by James Hart



ISBN: 9780857989666

RRP $14.99

Published: 01/12/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s



Your sporty kids, particularly those who have enjoyed the Billy Slater footy series and the Glenn Maxwell cricket series, will love this collection of stories from Patrick Loughlin.

There’s Robbie and Bradley who both want to win their 200 metre final but are a little flummoxed by an avenging magpie. Or maybe you have some outstanding BMXers who would love the story called Wheels of Fortune with its handy tips for riding and a totally surprise ending.

Or how about a little karate with Alice Pepper fresh from the National Titles taking up the challenge from school bully Zach without abandoning the true honour code of her sport.

Surfing, netball, AFL and swimming are all included plus more. And of course no book of Australian sport stories for kids would be complete without a great handball story – anyone who has watched the intensity of playground handball tournaments know this is one sport all kids take seriously!

A great read for kids aged around eight up – particularly if they are daunted by a  ‘whole’ book – snack size stories such as these are great for a quick quiet reading time.

Super Sports Stories for Kids – Patrick Loughlin/illustrated by James Hart


All-Stars bind-ups


Glenn Maxwell 1 and 2 Bindup – Patrick Loughlin

Lucky Break

Academy All-stars

ISBN: 9780857988867

Published: 02/11/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s


Glenn Maxwell 3 and 4 Bindup

State Showdown

World Domination

ISBN: 9780857988881

Published: 02/11/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s


RRP $19.99


In more double your fun your young cricket devotees will be able to indulge in these two new bindups in the Glenn Maxwell series. Previously I reviewed the first two titles on this blog.

Books 3 and 4 take young Will’s playing ambitions to new highs – and lows. Will finds it hard to believe that his dream has come true when he finds himself playing at the hallowed MCG in the T20 National Youth Shield. He has been working on his positive thinking and his technique but suddenly finds himself struggling in his play. His rhythm has completely left him and he despairs of even making it through. He looks to his mentor Maxi to help him settle down and get back into the swing.

Book 4 holds even more excitement as Will and his team mates travel to England and the home of cricket to play in the T20 Youth World Championships.  While Will may be in seventh heaven having been selected not just for the team but asked to captain it, he is also a mass of nerves and misgivings about his ability to lead the team successfully. This is particularly so when he needs to somehow meld together the players from different states and overcome their rivalries. Again he looks to Glenn for advice and sagacity in his quest for the best.

These are just perfect reading for your cricketers, be they boys or girls, and with two for the price of one, you can’t go wrong putting them on your shelves.

Recommended for readers from around ten and up.






Footy Dreaming – Michael Hyde



Ford St Publishing

May 2015

186 p. RRP: $17.99

ISBN: 9781925000993

Like so many other youngsters around the country, Noah and Ben live for their footy. They are both completely focussed on being the best players they can be in their provincial footy teams but also share a common goal: to be selected for the Bushrangers and go on to play the big game at the MCG. They are both prepared to put in the hard yards to achieve this by being rigorous with their training and skilling and always giving their best effort. Despite their similarities, their cautious friendship is marred by division. Noah comes from a solid and loving Aboriginal family, grounded in their kinship and supportive of each other and their culture. Noah plays for the Mavericks: a successful team who work as a team under the guidance of an experienced and wise coach. Ben, on the other hand, has only his dad and sister and plays for the Kookaburras (because he is made to follow the family tradition of doing so). The Kookaburras are a sloppy outfit with prejudices and favouritism rife in its ranks. It has not ever had a good name in the game.

Michael Hyde achieves a wonderfully realistic and utterly believable cast of characters, each with their own voice as he explores this complex small town scenario. The boys are drawn together despite their team rivalry through not only their shared goal but also their growing understanding of being in the other’s shoes – or footy boots.

With the kind of dramas one would expect in everyday Australian life such as death of a relative, teenagers struggling to find their own identity, dealing with racism and prejudices, bullying, establishing relationships with mates or girls, Hyde presents us with a view of this sport, which often verges on a fervent religion, as well as life outside the big city that gives real insight into these young players and their hurdles and their community.

If you have not yet found the right book for a young person in your readership clientele, this might well be the one that flicks the magic switch.

Both male and female characters are strong and resonant providing appeal to both boys and girls. The plot is well constructed and the important issues of racism, prejudice and bullying are handled deftly and with sensitivity.

Highly recommended for readers from around 12 up.