- My Dad, The Coach by Catherine Hapka
- The Comeback Kids by Catherine Hapka
Two stories aimed at beginning readers and pre-reading children, based on the Universal movie Kicking & Screaming, are now available as HarperCollins Festival Books. Festival series books feature lively stories coupled with illustrations that inform the young reader’s visualization, and include advice to the parents on how to encourage reading.
My Dad, The Coach follows the movie story of Sam Weston’s problems with his soccer coaches. First, he’s on a winning team where his Grandpa is the coach, but he never gets to play. Then he gets traded to a team that doesn’t have a coach, so his Dad agrees to do it. His new team is in last place, and that isn’t much fun either. When they do start to win some games, suddenly his Dad starts acting like his Grandpa. Sam must decide what to do—should he play when he isn’t having fun?
These simple conflicts are neatly laid out in accessible language, with one or two three- to four-syllable words (realized, Gladiators) to challenge the beginning reader. Each page includes from one to three short sentences with illustrations taken from the movie. The pictures contribute somewhat to this story, but will work best for a child who has already seen the movie.
The Comeback Kids focuses on the movie story line about the new soccer team Sam joins, the Tigers. Through the efforts of Sam’s Dad, a new coach who needs to watch videos to learn about soccer, and a famous football coach, Mike Ditka, the boys on the team learn about teamwork and winning. Although Sam’s dismay at not playing as much when his team begins to win is part of the story, it is presented as a team problem.
The language in this second book is a bit more challenging for the beginning reader. Each two-page set includes three to six short sentences illustrated by stills from the movie, and there are more three- to four syllable words (important, champions, exciting, anything) and even a daunting consonant combination (butcher). Coupled with the “determine to do your best” message of the story, these challenges will help the reader’s parents encourage their child to take on the slighly more-difficult reading task.
The pictures illustrate this story well, and will appeal to children who are interested in playing soccer or any team sport, whether or not they have seen the movie.
For older readers, check out Kicking & Screaming: The Movie Novel. This is a chapter-book designed for 3rd to 5th graders, which follows the movie story lines closely. Contractions, compound words and challenging consonant combinations, and the inclusion of pictures only in a center section, along with multiple conflicts and advanced themes, make this a good choice for your middle-school child. I strongly recommend having your child read this book before seeing the movie.