Michael Panckridge, Over the Wall (Legends #5), Ford Street, 1 March 2018, 138pp., $14.95 (pbk), ISBN: 9781925272925
Michael Panckridge, On the Buzzer (Legends #6), Ford Street, 1 March 2018, 138pp., $14.95 (pbk), ISBN: 9781925272932
Over the Wall and On the Buzzer are books five and six in Michael Panckridge’s Legend Series of Aussie sports books. The series is made up of eight titles and with each book covering a different sport. Over the Wall focuses on soccer while On the Buzzer is all about basketball.
The books follow the trials and tribulations of Mitchell Grady, a grade six student at Sandhurst school as he competes in regular sporting contests to become the ‘Legend of Sport’. He and his friends also compete against four other schools in an inter-school competition which is tied to the Legend of Sport, so these books bulge with sports and competition galore!
I love the concept behind this series and the way each book explores and focuses on a different sport. I also love that it is Australian and includes sports such as AFL, netball and surfing.
Although these books could be read as standalone, I would recommend they are read in order because an overall story arc runs through the eight books that isn’t only about sport.
Having now read three books in the series and as an absolute sports buff, I have very much enjoyed two of the books, including On the Buzzer. Unfortunately though, Over the Wall fell a bit flat. This can often happen in a series, where one book isn’t as strong and I think that in this instance more time was spent in Over the Wall on the overall story arc rather than the sport, which left it lacking some of the passion and detail of the other two.
These books, despite the girl on the cover, are very much geared towards boys. Boys will lap up the statistics, the sports and the competition. It also helps that the male characters are well drawn, interesting and substantial, and outnumber the girls three to one. In contrast, although an effort is made to include girls — they have their own competitions, Mitchell is close friends with two girls, their statistics are recorded — they take an obvious back seat to the boys. After three books I struggle to remember one significant feature about either of Mitchell’s girl friends, both have faded into token characters that blend into the background, which is a shame.
The author has said that he wrote the series in an effort to encourage reluctant readers and I think that he has succeeded in this. The structure, style and vocabulary are simple and easy to read, but cover topics that many kids will find interesting.
The Legend Series of sporting books, set in contemporary Australia, should engage boys aged eight to twelve and I would recommended them to kids who either like sports or are reluctant readers.
Reviewed by Renee Mihulka