Win a great children’s book by James Hook
Sports literature for children has a special importance because it can encourage youngsters to get into reading through their love of sport.
It was pleasing to see the Telegraph Sports Book Awards recognise this by adding a new category, the Children’s Sports Book of the Year, to their portfolio in 2020. And pleasing, too, to see an addition to the niche market that is children’s rugby literature.
James Hook’s book Kick-off, part one of a series titled Chasing a Rugby Dream, came out last autumn. The former Wales and Lions fly-half had the idea for the book after struggling to find anything suitable for his eldest son, Harrison.
David Brayley, a sportswriter from Swansea, came on board to offer his considerable expertise and the result is an enjoyable read in which lessons for life pepper the narrative.
At the foot of this article, we’re offering you the chance to win one of six signed copies of the book. First, here’s some detail about the content of Kick-off.
Hook says he has created a fictional school-age version of himself. Thus Jimmy Joseph, aged ten, is the rugby-mad hero of the story. He’s a lad forced to deal with hurdles ranging from asthma and wearing glasses to bullying and outright persecution.
Along the way, there is no end of good advice offered from Joseph’s friends and family, and a satisfying comeuppance for the tyrannical rugby master, Mark Kane, who treats Joseph so appallingly.
Indeed, Kane’s behaviour is so outrageous, most notably during a school match in which he referees and cheats shamelessly, that at times the parody makes you laugh.
We have goodies and baddies and a baddie turned goodie in the 1st XV full-back Mike Green, demonstrating that some people can change tack if given a second chance.
There is technical skills advice from the legendary former pro who befriends Joseph after spotting him kicking a ball around in the park. And there are numerous mentions of real-life rugby stars, including Shane Williams, who offers advice to small players – like Joseph – on a YouTube video that the book’s hero watches for extra motivation.
Hook says he hopes the book will entertain adults as well as children. “There is nothing better than grown-ups and children enjoying books together,” says the Welshman, a father of three who works as a skills coach for the Ospreys. In that we believe he has succeeded.
Here’s a brief extract that touches on another of the book’s themes, gender equality. Joseph’s friend Kitty, a super-fast winger and the only girl in the school team, is being asked by Joseph’s mum why she plays rugby. Kitty replies…
“My dad told me a long time ago to pick a sport you love and also to pick a sport you’re good at. That way you’ll make friends for life and will always have a good, strong level of fitness. I like football, too, but my favourite has always been rugby, so I just went for it.
“When my dad realised that’s what I wanted to do, he began to teach me about tackling and how to do it safely. So before I even started playing properly, he’d make me practise tackling in the garden with one of his big punch bags. And then we’d spend hours watching Massive Rugby Hits on YouTube together, so that I could see for myself the best ways to tackle.”
“Ah, I watch that one too!” exclaimed Jimmy. “It’s awesome. Have you seen the one where Semi Radradra smashes Liam Williams when Fiji played Wales in the 2019 World Cup?”
“Yeah, it’s brutal!” laughs Kitty.
Now enter our competition to win the book or buy it here
Kick-off by James Hook, written in collaboration with David Brayley, is published by Polaris, RRP £7.99. Signed copies are available via the Polaris Publishing website or you can buy the book by clicking on the link below.
We also have six signed copies to give away. For a chance to win James Hook’s book, answer the question below and fill in your details. The competition closes on Friday 18 June.