Ever wondered what you’d do if your togs fell off during a swimming race? Or if a shark turned up in the middle of your surfing championships? Patrick Loughlin’s Super Sports Stories for Kids, a middle-grade book featuring twelve short stories about sport, explores these unexpected sporting moments and more. It includes all the usual suspects: cricket, netball, soccer, AFL and rugby, as well as some lesser known sports such as BMX, karate and the schoolyard favourite, handball.
I love this book’s Australiana: think Speedos, magpies, eskies and the Everly Emus. The stories are also varied with many of them sure to get the kids giggling, whilst others send strong messages about sportsmanship, perseverance and competition. But what sets this book apart are the elements of fantasy. Ghosts, angels and some magic goal-keeping gloves are all woven around the sports, keeping the kids entertained and their imaginations flowing.
My only disappointment is that girls aren’t featured enough, with only three of the twelve stories focused solely on them. Yes, but many more boys play sport, I hear you cry! Actually, not really. A 2009 ABS study shows that between the ages of nine and eleven, the participation rate for boys in organised sport is 72.1%, compared with 64.61% for girls. Not a big difference at all. And if you take into account dance, not included in this study, you could argue that more girls are participating in organised physical activities than boys.
Then there is the way the girls are featured. At this middle-grade age, girls and boys often compete together, so I would have expected to see more teamwork between the girls and boys, rather than the usual competitive boy vs. girl scenario and “‘lone girl’ proves herself against boys” trope.
Even so, I would recommend Super Sports Stories for the night-time reading routine. Each story contains a moral or idea to unpick and it’s satisfying to knock off one story a night. Put to the test with my own two middle-graders, they found the stories both entertaining and funny and looked forward to reading them with me each night. My son, in particular, could very much relate to being chased by a magpie!