It was with some trepidation that I took the decision to buy one of the titles in footballer Frank Lampard’s new children’s book series.
Call me cynical but celebrity authors rarely churn out literary classics. Does anyone remember Geri Halliwell’s foray into children’s fiction? No, and there’s probably a good reason for that.
How about Madonna’s English Roses phase? Not ringing any bells? It too seems to have faded away as quickly as her last marriage.
Of course, there are always a few exceptions. David Walliams’ children’s books have been received equally well by critics as they have by readers. Ricky Gervais’s Flanimals didn’t do too badly either.
So I wanted to be proved wrong about this Frank Lampard series, especially given the great work the footballer is doing in promoting literacy and also because Toby is so obsessed with football it seemed a convenient way to encourage his reading too.
Unfortunately I found The Grizzly Games to be a pretty weak effort.
It’s a nicely produced book with decent illustrations and trading cards of each character at the back but the story just does not work. The writing is stiff. The characters are flat. Parts of the narrative lack action and drive.
I sense these books have been rushed out to earn back the series’ (probably) massive marketing budget, and more. Sadly with a little more development the books would have offered something a bit more memorable and far more worthy of a footballing hero’s name on the front cover.
To summarise the series plot, the eponymous hero Frankie is the owner of a magic football that transports him and his two friends Louise and Charlie to other places to help people in need. In this story the characters end up in Canada where they meet a girl called Danni, then they go back to school, accidentally taking Danni’s large dog with them, so they then have to take the dog back to Canada where Louise plays in Danni’s football team, helping to lead them to victory, and then they all go home. All this in a day. You almost expect it to be ended with the immortal line: “And it was all a dream”.
The flaws are fairly obvious. The main character really doesn’t do much other than own a magic football. The story structure fails to generate any pace or urgency. Too many words are wasted describing redundant scenes.
However the single most disappointing aspect of a book “written” by Frank Lampard is the lack of football in the story. The book came alive when the football match was described. It’s just a shame that readers have to wait so long for this and are only then treated to a few pages of actual football.
I also liked the fact that the football was played by the girls. As increasingly children’s products seem to be marketed along divided gender lines, it’s encouraging to see that girls are given centre stage in a book that could have lazily been marketed directly to boys.
Despite my disdain for this book, Toby (who let’s face it, the book is really for) disagrees. I assumed he only praised this book because it was written by the former Chelsea and England midfielder but I was wrong.
While I think the magic football idea is silly, he thinks it’s “imaginative.” He also appreciated the factual content in the book. There are lots of educational facts about Canada planted in the story which Toby took in. I, on the other hand, felt these details were a bit intrusive and contrived. Almost as if Lampard and the editorial team felt they had to add some educational content to make up for the flimsy story.
Eleven books are in this series, and based on this one, I’m not planning to seek out any more. So, I’ll be trying to steer Toby’s tastes in a different direction for our next bedtime read. If, like me, you have a boy who is football daft, then I’d recommend the Dino FC series as it tackles (see what I did there) the football theme far more adeptly than Frank Lampard, who should really just stick to the day job.
Fun factor: 2/5
Fidget factor: 3/5 – despite claiming he liked the book, there was an awful lot of fidgeting going on.
Fear factor: 2/5 – just one scary moment featuring a grizzly bear but pretty tame really.
Page turnability: 2/5
Mum’s final score: 5/10 – extra points for including female characters who play football
Toby’s final score: 10/10