Cricket Books for Aussie Kids

How’s your ramp coming along? Spotted a good ‘jaffa’ lately? Enjoy hanging out at ‘cow corner’? No, I’m not talking house construction, confectionery or farming. I’m talking cricket – batting shots, bowling deliveries, fielding positions.

Cricket has a language all its own and part of the delight in reading about cricket is discovering new words and meanings. Cricket-themed children’s books can also entice reluctant readers to spend some time between the pages, especially when their cricketing heroes are front and centre.

This selection of books for children will appeal to those who are already cricket fans – be they young or old – and they may help steer the uninitiated toward cricket appreciation.

Books are listed under the following headings: Picture Books, Younger Readers, Middle Grade Readers and Non-fiction. Titles of book series are bolded; titles of standalone books are italicised. Links will usually go to the book publisher’s website. Most books listed are in print at the time of writing; those that are not can often be found in public libraries.

Please note: age recommendations are a guide only.

Picture Books

It’s never too early to start…

Grug Plays Cricket (2009), Ted Prior (text and illus.) Ages: 2+

With trademark simplicity, Ted Prior conjures a cricketing experience for his shaggy creation in Grug Plays Cricket. Grug invites Cara the snake to play. The pitch and scoreboard are readied. Grug and Cara take turns at batting and bowling. There are a couple of impressive catches. The end.

What’s not to love about Grug!

Cara ’catches’ the ball, Grug Plays Cricket

The 12th Dog (2017), Charlotte Calder (text), Tom Jellett (illus.) Ages: 3+

A humorous tale, The 12th Dog tells the story of Arlo (the 12th dog of the title) who has a habit of catching the ball and not returning it. All is forgiven the day he hurtles into the stumps and runs Holly out. Well, almost all, he still has some unreturned balls tucked away.

Arlo’s stash of unreturned balls, The 12th Dog

Cricket, I Just Love It! (2021), Alister Nicholson (text), Tom Jellett (illus.) Ages: 4+

As an ABC Grandstand cricket commentator, Alister Nicholson has been at the forefront of women’s cricket coverage, and it’s good to see girls receive equal billing in the text of Cricket, I Just Love It! and in Jellett’s action-packed illustrations. Pictures also include children from a mix of ethnic backgrounds, plus one young lad who takes on the game from his wheelchair.

Cricket, I Just Love It! is a rollicking romp through some of the sport’s big names (Lanning and Perry, Bradman and Ponting), its iconic emblems (the baggy green), and its idiosyncratic nomenclature (jaffas, ducks, bunnies). Most of all, it’s about playing the game and having fun.

Visit publisher Allen & Unwin’s website to listen to the book being read by Nicholson.

‘Cricket, I work at it!’, Cricket, I Just Love It!

Over Is Out (2018), Lachlan Creagh and Sarah Creagh (text), Lachlan Creagh (illus.) Ages: 4+

Over Is Out plays on a common backyard cricket rule: ‘over the fence is out’. In the Creaghs’ story, the ball sails into the neighbour’s yard and one young cricketer is sent to retrieve it. Unfortunately for him, the neighbours are dinosaurs. The book utilises the ‘there and back again’ narrative as the young batter scampers around the neighbour’s yard, seeking the ball among a variety of dinosaurs. He makes a quick exit as T-Rex stirs.

There’s some clever humour in the ending to this delightful tale in which the illustrations combine effectively with the text to ‘tell the story’.

‘I think he wants to play!’, Over Is Out

Howzat! (2014), Mike Lefroy (text), Liz Anelli (illus.) Ages: 5+

A rhyming story that skips around the globe. The opening and closing endpapers show maps of the story’s route through twelve countries, and double-page illustrations throughout the book provide plenty of country-specific context. The Australian scene (I think at Bondi Beach) includes a ubiquitous ute, surf lifesaving flags and a streaker. The final illustration is a joyous melange of cricketing fans and players from across the world.

This book is currently out of print, but I hope there are copies in many school and public libraries. Liz Anelli’s illustrations are a real joy. Teaching resources are available via Walker Books website.

Cricket’s ‘United Nations’, Howzat!

Maxx Rumble (2004–2005, re-published 2012–2013), Michael Wagner (text), Terry Denton (illus.) Ages: 6+

Michael Wagner has created three sports-themed series featuring young Maxx Rumble – two are football-based (Australian Rules football and soccer) and the third is Maxx Rumble: Cricket. Each cricket book is packed with the characters’ flair for imagination and hyperbole (matched by Terry Denton’s madcap illustrations) and the variation in font size suits beginning readers who are getting used to chapter books. The eight cricket titles are available separately or in one omnibus edition (although the physical size of the latter may be daunting for young readers).

Merv was ‘out like a light’ in the field – Maxx Rumble, Book 5, Hammered!

Boomerang and Bat: The Story of the Real First Eleven (2016), Mark Greenwood (text), Terry Denton (illus.) Ages: 7+

Boomerang and Bat tells the story of the first Australian cricket team to tour England – a team comprising Aboriginal players coached by English cricketer and Australian settler Charles Lawrence. Based on solid historical research, Greenwood’s text incorporates the challenges, discrimination and griefs that beset the touring team including the refusal of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines to allow the team to leave Australia (Lawrence smuggled them out) and the death in England of batter King Cole (Bripumyarrimin).

Detailed teaching resources available via Allen & Unwin’s website.

‘“We’re sick for our country,” said Johnny’, Boomerang and Bat

Knockabout Cricket: A Story of Sporting Legend – Johnny Mullagh (2014), Neridah McMullin (text), Ainsley Walters (illus.) Ages: 8+

A picture book for older children, Knockabout Cricket interweaves factual information about Aboriginal cricketer Johnny Mullagh (Unaarrimin) with a fictional re-creation of his introduction to the game. The fictional account is told from the perspective of a squatter’s son; the factual account provides the story of Mullagh’s participation in what was probably the first Boxing Day match played at the MCG and his subsequent selection in the first Aboriginal team to tour England.

(Since 2020, six years after the publication of Knockabout Cricket, the Mullagh Medal has been presented to the player of the match in the MCG’s Boxing Day Test. The first recipient was India’s Ajinkya Rahane; in 2021, the medal went to Australian fast bowler Scott Boland, a Gulidjan man.)

Teaching resources for Knockabout Cricket are available via the author’s website.

Johnny Mullagh takes a catch, Knockabout Cricket

Younger Readers

Most cricket-themed books for younger readers are part of a larger series where cricket is generally the focus of just one book among a broader range of sports-themed titles. The series (not all listed here) tend to feature male protagonists with girls, when present, taking on minor roles. Happily, recent publications are beginning to address this imbalance.

Sporty Kids: Cricket (2016), Felice Arena (text), Tom Jellett (illus.) Ages: 6+

Part of Felice Arena and Tom Jellett’s Sporty Kids series, this story features the annual neighbourhood cricket match between the Karim and Petersson families. The match is in doubt when Pete Karim’s parents are unable to play so Pete calls up his Grandpa (complete with walking frame), his two friends Abby and Angus, and his dog Warnie. It’s game on!

‘“Six!’ yelled Grandpa.’ – Sporty Kids, Cricket

Mighty Mitch (2017–2019), Mitchell Starc and Tiffany Malins (text), Philip Bunting (illus.) Ages: 7+

Mitchell Starc teams up with Tiffany Malins and Philip Bunting to create a funny, fast-paced series featuring mixed gender, multicultural cricket teams. Told from a first-person viewpoint, the Mighty Mitch stories focus on the Wander Hill Wombats Under-10s team. Mitch’s mate Joshua Camilleri is the archetypal prankster and mischief maker, injecting humour and unpredictability into each story.

The books include some insider jokes (e.g. a character named Hayden Matthews and a cricket trophy called ‘The Cinders’). All books include a diagram of fielding positions and batting shots, along with a list of cricketing terms and their meanings.

‘Howzat!’ – Mighty Mitch, Book 5, Day Night Decider

Middle Grade Readers

As with books for younger readers, those aimed at the middle grade reader (8–12 years) tend to be published in series. Individual books range from about 140 to 200 pages in length. Just like the books for beginning readers, there is a preponderance of male authors (with a couple of notable exceptions).

The Kaboom Kid (2014–2017), Dave Warner with J V McGee and J S Black (text), Jules Faber (illus.) Ages: 8+

The eight-book series The Kaboom Kid is narrated in the third person by protagonist Davey Warner, an 11-year-old, left-handed batter who plays for the Sandhill Sluggers. His friends include best mate Sunil Deep and his bat, nicknamed ‘Kaboom’. Davey’s regular adversaries are Shimmer Bay’s captain, Josh Jarrett (aka Mr Perfect), and the school bully Mo Clouter.

The lightly illustrated, large print books are available in omnibus editions: Crazy for Cricket includes books 1–4; Hitting It Home includes books 5–8.

Davey Warner’s bedroom – The Kaboom Kid, Book 1, The Big Switch

Big Bash League (2016–2017), Michael Panckridge (text), James Fosdike (illus.) Ages: 8+

For fans of the men’s (BBL) and women’s (WBBL) Big Bash Leagues, Panckridge’s books offer neat tie-ins between young players (fictional) and the teams they support (both BBL and WBBL). Five of the eight books in the series feature cricketing tips and information, along with team and player statistics for BBL and WBBL teams. The statistics (e.g. Best results, Highest individual score) are, necessarily, only accurate up to the date of publication.

The books are set in the various cities around Australia that host a Big Bash team and the cast of characters is new for each book. At least one girl and one boy appear on the cover of each book and this gender parity is generally reflected in the stories.

‘I barrack for the Brisbane Heat’ – Big Bash League, Book 2, Captains’ Clash

Ellyse Perry (2016–2017), Ellyse Perry and Sherryl Clark (text), Jeremy Lord (illus.) Ages: 8+

In the only series (to date) by one of Australia’s women cricketers, Ellyse Perry teams up with established children’s author Sherryl Clark in a four-book series. The first book, Pocket Rocket, starts with Ellyse embarking on life at secondary school. Small for her age, she is dismissed by the school’s cricket coach but the determined youngster, with dedicated support from her father, persists with her sporting ambitions and is eventually rewarded. Book four in the series, Double Time, concentrates on the clash Ellyse experiences when wanting to play both cricket and soccer. (Perry has represented Australia at national level in both sports.)

A feature of all four books is the growing and changing bond between Ellyse and her school friends, emblematic of the often fractious relationships among adolescent girls.

Cover images, Ellyse Perry titles

Nips XI and Nips Go National (2000, 2003), Ruth Starke (text) Ages: 8+

First published in 2000, Nips XI remains in print due to the quality of Ruth Starke’s storytelling. Starke, an award-winning children’s author, knew nothing about cricket when began her two-book series but the first book, Nips XI, went on to receive an honourable mention in the UNESCO Prize for Children’s and Young People’s Literature in the Service of Tolerance (for readers under 13 years of age).

Nips XI and its sequel Nips Go National centre on Lan Nguyen and his friends from North Illaba Primary School – hence the seemingly racist acronym NIPS. Lan and his ethnically diverse classmates form a cricket team in an endeavour to be accepted as genuine Australians. They manage to acquire the services of a coach, an ex-Australian spin bowler, who instils in his charges both the principles and ethics of the game.

Nips XI culminates in a match between the Nips and the highly fancied Kings School. Who wins? According to the Nips coach, ‘the game won’ (p.223).

Teaching resources available from Hachette.

Cover image, Nips XI, courtesy of Hachette

Toby Jones (2006–2007, 2008–2009), Michael Panckridge and Brett Lee (text) Ages: 10+

Author Michael Panckridge combines with Australian fast bowler Brett Lee to create this time slip series. The point of departure for each of the five books is match recorded in the ‘cricket bible’, Wisden. Each title includes Lee’s cricket tips and summaries of selected games, for example, the 1960 tied test between Australia and the West Indies.

Originally published as five separate books, the stories in the Toby Jones series were later published in two omnibus editions, Hat Trick (2008) and HowZat! (2009).

Cover images, Tony Jones titles

Glenn Maxwell (2014–2015), Patrick Loughlin (text), James Hart (illus.) Ages: 10+

True confessions time: this series is my personal favourite among the Middle Grade readers.

Most of the series developed by renowned cricketers (whether as writers, ghost-writers or consultants) re-create the cricketer’s life as a young, up-and-coming player. Patrick Loughlin instead casts Glenn Maxwell as a coach and guide to young (fictional) players.

In the Glenn Maxell series, 12-year-old Will Albright, a Melbourne boy, first tries out for squad selection at the Victorian T20 Youth Academy. (He is, of course, successful, or there would be no more books.) Will progresses to the State T20 team, then the national team and, finally, captains the internationally touring Youth World Cup team.

Along the way, Will has two constant friends: fellow boys’ team member Shavil Kumar and the capable (and, to Will, increasingly attractive) Zoe Jarrett, a member of the corresponding girls’ team.

Glen Maxwell pops up throughout the books, offering Will wise tips and sound guidance gleaned from his own longstanding cricket career. In Academy All-Stars, for instance, when Will is struggling as an opening batter, and in danger of losing his spot in the team, Maxwell suggests the young player add spin bowling to his repertoire: ‘sometimes you have to find out how to fit into the team, not how to make the team fit you’ (108).

‘“Lucky shot,” said Zoe’ – Glenn Maxwell, Book 2, Academy All-Stars

Non-fiction

Most of the cricketers involved in the creation of children’s fiction series attest to the influence of non-fiction cricket books during their developmental years in the sport. Today, an increasing number of current and ex-players turn their hand to autobiographies, targeted at adult audiences. There is not a similarly large choice of books aimed at the children’s market. Then again, maybe one really good book is all that’s required…

A History of Cricket (2011), Catherine Chambers Ages: 12+

Chambers begins her book this way: ‘Cricket just has to be the mightiest, most noble game. The pinnacle of all physical, mental and emotional tests’ (1). The reader is in no doubt where the author’s sympathy lies!

A History of Cricket is packed with information. Some chapters focus on the development of the game in a particular country (e.g. ‘ India: The Jewel in the Cricket Crown’), others have a thematic focus (e.g. ‘Women’s Cricket’, ‘Batting Greats’). There is little coverage of the West Indies or the African cricket-playing nations but, apart from that, almost every aspect of the game is covered with break out boxes providing greater detail about some of cricket’s exceptional players, and ample information on the different formats of the game, bowling terms and fielding positions.

Chambers doesn’t overlook the role of umpires – a vital, but often ignored element in children’s books. She also incorporates some wonderful quips from cricket commentators and authors. English broadcaster Henry Blofeld is quoted as saying: ‘One-day cricket is an exhibition. Test cricket is an examination.’ I’ll give the last word to American comedian Groucho Marx, unaccustomed to the nuances of cricket, who, after staring at a match for a very long time asked: ‘So when does it begin?’

Entry for Glenn McGrath, A History of Cricket

Links and Sources

My thanks to the National Library of Australia and the Queanbeyan Palerang Regional Library Service. All books listed are held at one or both of these libraries.

Rugby League-Themed Books for Children

 

book-covers_5_landscapeEarlier this year, I blogged about children’s books featuring Australian Rules  ‒ now it’s time for Rugby League to hit the spotlight. Kids’ books about League generally have young male protagonists, are often aimed at reluctant readers, and sometimes highlight aspects of Indigenous cultures. Positive messages about education and reading may sneak into their pages as well.

Here’s a round-up of single titles (italicised below), book series (bolded below) and educational publications, written by Australian authors and published in the last decade, that feature League. (Titles are listed in reverse chronological order; newer publications will be more readily available.)

SINGLE TITLES

Matty’s Comeback by Anita Heiss (2016). Ages 8–12, 80 pp.
mattys-comebackTen-year-old Koori kid Matty is a mad Rabbitohs fan (as are his mum, dad and brother). Matty basically knows everything there is to know about the Bunnies. It’s not a passion shared by his sister, Nita. She’s into reading. (She’s also a Kangatarian – she eats no meat, except kangaroo, ‘on ethical and environmental grounds’).

Matty is passionate about his local junior club, but he breaks his arm while bike riding and can’t play in the grand final. Enter bookworm Nita! She borrows a copy of Ray Warren’s The Voice for her demoralised brother and suggests that he commentate the final instead – that way, he can still be involved in the action. An inspired idea from the family ‘reader’.

Author Anita Heiss, a Wiradjuri woman, incorporates contemporary and Indigenous slang (e.g. ‘whatevs’, ‘tomoz’, ‘deadly’ and ‘didge’) into the story, along with aspects of Aboriginal history and culture (e.g. an Indigenous perspective on the Bicentenary, the singing of the national anthem in an Aboriginal language at Matty’s school and Greg Inglis’s ‘goanna move’ when celebrating a try).

Cannily, Cannily by Simon French (1981, re-published 2012). Ages 10–12+*, 20 pp.
cannily-cannilyEleven-year-old Trevor is the son of fruit pickers, constantly on the move. The family lives out of a Kombi van with a caravan and annexe attached. As the novel begins, Trevor and his mum and dad arrive in a new town – meaning another new school for Trevor. But this time, Trevor’s dad is taking on work as a bricklayer and Trevor is the only new kid at the school; there are no other fruit pickers’ kids for company. His new class teacher and footy coach, Mr Fuller, is a bully. Mr Fuller is aggressive, mean-spirited, cruel even.

Trevor observes his new world from a distance, trying to make sense of it, trying to fit in, but aware that he’s giving up something essential in himself when he seeks to accommodate the nature and culture of the small town. School and the footy team form the scaffold on which the story is hung; at its heart is a family with horizons much wider than the communities in which they linger temporarily. Cannily, Cannily, written by primary school teacher Simon French, is also about place and identity – and about home. It was originally published over 30 years ago and was commended in the 1982 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards. Its exploration of the interior world of a displaced pre-adolescent boy warrants a new generation of readers.

* The publisher’s age recommendation for this book is 8+, but I think Simon French’s approach to issues of identity, self-discovery, emotional isolation and relationships requires a slightly more mature readership.

  • Want more? See the Walker Books Australia website. (This link provides access to classroom ideas – for Years 5–7 – and to the first two chapters of the book.)

The Flea Thing by Brian Falkner (2007). Ages 9+, 120 pp.
THE_FLEA_THINGDaniel is twelve years old and he has a special talent – he can slow down time for himself while it continues at normal pace for everyone else. His secret talent provides him with opportunities to create winning moves on the footy field which, in turn, earn him a place in the New Zealand Warriors NRL team.

Daniel trains hard, plays in an NRL grand final, scores the winning try and then … he quits. With the benefit of wise guidance from an older (i.e. twenty-something) player, Henry Knight, Daniel comes to understand that the present is the only time he’s going to get to be a kid. He goes back to playing junior footy – and he catches up with his much-neglected friends.

The Flea Thing is written by Brian Falkner – an Auckland-born and raised, Gold Coast resident. Falkner’s website includes access to the opening chapter of The Flea Thing (originally published in New Zealand in 2003 as Henry & the Flea).

Leaper Lane by Stephen Measday and Paul Sironen (2006). Ages 10+, 206 pp.
leaper-lane_nlaStephen Measday, author of over a dozen children’s and young adult novels, teamed up with former Balmain Tigers, NSW and Australian second rower Paul Sironen to create the code-transition tale of Jack Lane. Jack’s parents have separated and he has moved from Melbourne to Sydney with his mum. In the southern capital he (wisely!) barracked for Carlton. Now in Sydney, he’s got to learn a whole new code of football. (He clearly didn’t want to transfer his allegiances to support the Sydney Swans, and the book was written a few years prior to the establishment of the Greater Western Sydney AFL team.)

The story follows eleven-year-old Jack’s dedication to learning the rules of Rugby League and his perseverance with training drills. He gradually hones his skills, makes the local Wanderers team, and – by transferring his Aussie Rules marking ability to the new code – earns the nickname ‘Leaper’. Jack takes part in a kicking competition on The Footy Show (his kicking game is another legacy of his Aussie Rules training) and he is picked for the junior NSW team to play the curtain raiser at State of Origin games. He also manages to wangle an opportunity for his mum and dad to get back together again.

Jack’s transition to, and success in, a new football code is relatively straightforward, and the future for his parents seems headed for a neat, ‘happily ever after’ outcome. A distinctive element in the story is the friendship that develops between Jack and Tania Brookes (one of Jack’s classmates and a Rugby League player). Tania plays in the Wanderers team and, like Jack, is selected for the junior state team – both teams are mixed gender.

  • Want more? Leaper Lane was published by the now defunct Jane Curry Publishing. Copies of the book are available in libraries. For specific locations, see Trove Australia.

Across the Line by Penny Garnsworthy (2006). Ages 9+, 59 pp.
across-the-lineAfter an accident on the footy field, Year 8 student Casey wakes up in an alternate reality. Casey’s new world is peopled by familiar family members, teachers and friends, but their personalities and his relationships with them take on new guises.

Casey’s science teacher, Mr Chiang, introduces his young student to quantum physics and Casey risks exposing his confusing situation. Mr Chiang calls in the assistance of a university professor and, between the three of them, they develop the hypothesis that Casey might have a double in another universe. By re-creating the circumstances of the first ‘crossing over’, Casey is able to swap places with his original self while still scoring the winning try for his Vikings footy team.

SERIES

Billy Slater by Patrick Loughlin and Billy Slater (2014). Ages 8+.
try-timeSydney-based teacher and Manly Sea Eagles supporter Patrick Loughlin joined forces with Melbourne Storm’s Billy Slater to create the eponymous Billy Slater series. The series is based around the West Hill Ravens Under 11s footy team, and a different junior player features as the main character in each book. The team comprises players from a range of ethnic backgrounds; some of the players are Corey Wilson, Tai Nguyen, Ahmed Azzi, Lucas Popovic, Ravi Rangarajan and Junior Taafuli. The storylines are realistic and acknowledge varied emotions including fear, self-doubt, frustration and anger. Slater’s mentoring tips are woven into the narrative (Slater appears periodically as a visiting mentor for the West Hill Ravens), and tips are also included in a factual format at the end of each book.

The four titles in this series are each about 120 pages in length. At the time of publication, Random House (now part of the merged  Penguin Random House Australia) recommended a reading age of 9+, but the books are also suitable for slightly younger readers. The print is widely spaced and Nahum Ziersch’s illustrations break up the text at regular intervals. There are duel underlying messages in the series: to have fun playing footy and to acknowledge your feelings. As Slater puts it in his introduction, it’s ‘important to share your feelings with others around you – especially your family – as they are often the best people to help you out’.

Deadly D and Justice Jones by Dave Hartley and Scott Prince (2013–2015). Ages 9+.
deadly-d-and-justice-jone-making-the-teamThere are three books (to date), ranging from 120 to 200 pages in length, in Dave Hartley and Scott Prince’s Deadly D and Justice Jones series. Dave Hartley is a Barunggam man and is currently a deputy principal at Queensland’s Coomera Springs State School. Scott Prince is a Kalkadoon man and a former player with Wests Tigers and with all three Queensland NRL teams.

The self-declared rationale for this series is ‘to engage reluctant readers using rugby league as the “hook”.’ The series opens with the main character, Dylan Conlan, moving with his mother from Mount Isa to Brisbane. (Dylan’s dad is dead.) Dylan is a Murri kid from the Kalkadoon mob; he has the slightly unsettling tendency of turning into a super strength ‘man-creature’ whenever he gets angry. This power causes his Kiwi mate, Justice Jones, to nickname Dylan ‘Deadly D’. Armed with his superpower, Dylan gets a spot on the Brisbane Broncos NRL team where – naturally – he stars.

The first book in the series, Making the Team, mentions Waitangi Day and the Apology to the Stolen Generations – the significance of ‘culture’ to both Dylan and Justice Jones is unmissable. Throughout the books, there is plenty of positive reinforcement about the value of education.

Rocket Launcher: A Rugby League Adventure for Fans by Michael Westlake and Trevor Gillmeister (2012). Ages 9+.
rocket-launcher_2Michael Westlake is a long-time sports journalist and has been a ghost writer for several Rugby League players including Mal Meninga, Glenn Lazarus and Trevor Gillmeister. In the Rocket Launcher series, Westlake teamed up with former NRL, Queensland and Australian player, and current Gold Coast Titans assistant coach, Gillmeister to create sixteen separately published books.

The text in each book is identical with the exception of the names of players and individual team references – these are changed to match each of the sixteen NRL clubs. The series uses the names of players who were ‘current’ in 2012. The Canberra Raiders title, for instance, features Terry Campese, David Shillington and Josh Dugan, among others. This approach dates quickly given the propensity of League players to move overseas, change clubs, or commit a range of contract-ending misdemeanours.

The replicated storyline is fast paced and includes plenty of humour and League terminology. Interspersed throughout the 200+ pages of each book is a succession of break out boxes, written by Gillmeister, with tips on playing League. The Rocket Launcher series is introduced by former Deputy Prime Minister (and avid Brisbane Broncos fan) Wayne Swan who encourages readers to ‘Enjoy playing, enjoy reading and enjoy rugby league’.

  • Want more? The Rocket Launcher series appears to be out of print. Copies are held in various Queensland libraries. For some specific locations, see Trove Australia.

League of Legends  by Michael Panckridge and Laurie Daley (2006–2008). Ages 10+.
league-of-legends-shielding-the-truthMichael Panckridge’s writing is ‘inspired by his passion for sport’ and his ‘desire to get reluctant readers engaged in books’. In League of Legends, Panckridge combines with Laurie Daley, the former Canberra Raiders five-eighth, NSW and Australian representative player, and current NSW State of Origin coach. The three titles in this series are each just under 200 pages in length. All begin with a diagram of field positions and they also include a glossary of Rugby League terms, along with tips from Daley.

Each story has a mystery at its heart and the high school-aged characters employ detective skills to uncover nefarious criminal activity.

EDUCATIONAL PUBLICATIONS

League Stars (2015). Ages 5–7.
trent-and-the-bulliesPublished by Macmillan, the League Stars series is written by Suzan Hirsch, an experienced teacher and a lecturer in Boys Education, Literacy, and Education Studies at the Australian Catholic University. The 24 titles in the series are divided into reading levels for Foundation to Year 2 and are shaped around either factual information or a fictional narrative.

The information-based titles focus on themes such as club uniforms and healthy diets, and the titles for Years 1 and 2 include contents pages and indexes. The narrative titles for Foundation use very simple language and repetition; the titles for Years 1 and 2 develop distinct storylines.

  • Want more? Details about the League Stars series can be found on the Macmillan website (under the collective heading ‘Legends of League’).

Footy Fables (2013). Ages 7+.
footy-fablesLike the League Stars series, Footy Fables is published by Macmillan and written by Suzan Hirsch. The book is a compendium of sixteen short stories (one for each NRL club) and is illustrated by former Penrith Panthers and South Sydney Rabbitohs player, and Samoan international, Frank Puletua. (Puletua completed a double degree in Fine Arts and Graphic Design during his NRL-playing career.)

The stories combine humour and excitement with plenty of League jargon thrown in. Hirsch includes references to non-footy-related myths and fables ‒ a bugged statue of the Brisbane Broncos team mascot, for instance, requires the coach to explain the Trojan horse, and the Melbourne Storm scenario sees Cameron Smith and Billy Slater trapped in a Hansel-and-Gretel-like gingerbread house to prevent them playing against the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Footy Fables was published in 2013 and the stories use the names of actual players. Given the rapidity with which players to change clubs, these references date quickly and the stories lose some immediacy and effectiveness. (Ben Barba, for example, has changed clubs twice since being with the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs – the team with which he is linked in the Bulldogs’ story.)

  • Want more? More information on this book is available from Macmillan.

Rugby League Reads (2010–2015, Macmillan; 2016–, NRL). Ages 7+.
rugby-league-reads-magazineFrom 2010 to 2015, Macmillan published the magazine Rugby League Reads. This glossy, full colour magazine is now published directly by the NRL and includes a feature article on every NRL club. One player from each club has been nominated as the team’s ‘Reading Captain’ and is interviewed for the magazine. Each Reading Captain acknowledges the importance of reading in his own life and indicates his personal reading preferences. Nutrition, literacy and indigeneity feature heavily throughout. The magazine is aimed at readers in the 7+ age group, particularly reluctant readers.

ANY MORE?

If you are aware of any recent titles that I’ve overlooked, please use the comments section to let me know.

LINKS AND SOURCES

  • Header image: By Angry mob mulls options [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
  • All titles discussed in this blog post were sighted (and very happily read) at the National Library of Australia with the exception of Rugby League Reads (personal copy).
  • Some titles were excluded from this round-up of Rugby League-themed books for children as they are quite dated and/or no longer readily available. Some school and public libraries may still hold copies. I have created an extended list of League-themed titles for children on the Trove Australia website; you can view the list here. (The list includes the only book I found that had a female protagonist, the 1984 publication The Girl Who Loved Football.)
  • Reading Time, the journal of the Children’s Book Council of Australia, has reviewed some of the titles mentioned above. You can find the reviews here.
  • the-voiceRay Warren’s The Voice: My Story is published by Nero, an imprint of Black Inc. Books.