The Field, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara, written by Baptiste Paul, published by North South, ISBN: 978-0735843127.
I wish The Field had a subtitle. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a solid title. However, it only slightly hints at the messy muddy gooey action found in this book about a group of kids enjoying a futbol (soccer) match in the Saint Lucia rain. I wish the subtitle could be something like Epic Muddy Futbol Match. Or Squish Squish Kick Kick. But then again, as a title, The Field is quick, to the point, and has a nostalgic feel, nicely conveying that it’s about author Paul remembering glorious childhood days of playing outdoor futbol with siblings and friends. On the book’s cover, Alcántara’s vibrant, colorful, playful art captures the eye: a soccer ball flying over the title, kids running with excitement, and a cow munching on grass with a “don’t mind me” kind of expression on its face. The panoramic endpapers transport the reader to a farm community in Saint Lucia. Greens pop off the page as a child kicks in a ball onto the field with its cows and a goat. At times, the artist uses graphic novel spreads showing the kids (always in kinetic motion) gather for the latest game. Baptiste mixes in Creole words and the story has a bouncy beat to it that makes it perfect for a readaloud (“Vini! Come!/The field calls./Bol.Ball./Soulye. Shoes./Goal. Goal.”). Alcántara’s figures delight (I love the cow’s expressions as a child attempts to shoo them to a different part of the field). The excitement of the game is palpable. Then when the rains come the book soars to another level of coolness, visually and as a story. The players decide to not let some raindrops get in the way of their fun, and soon they are dashing, splashing, slip-sliding, and belly flopping in the mud (the illustrations have an almost abstract look during these passages). You can feel the mud in your hair, on your clothes, in between your toes. The Field excels at creating a real sensory experience for the reader, a genuine sense of place. It’s a terrific sports book that celebrates the joy of a community coming together. And yes, it also works as a bathtime book, too.