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This fictional children’s picture book is based on the true story of creative and courageous boys in the village of Koh Panyee in southern Thailand. Author Darshana Khiani relates how the boys are passionate about football (called soccer in Canada and the United States) and long to compete with their peers. But they have a problem. Their village is built on a network of stilts to protect it from the high tide waters, and there’s no available pitch—or soccer field—on which to practice.

Defying all odds and putting up with the scorn of their neighbors, Surin, Krit, Lek, and the other boys continue to dream of competing against the mainland boys. Even when they’re told to stick with boat racing because it’s one of their village’s traditions, they don’t give up. But how will they create their own pitch? Is it even possible?

One day, Lek observes, “Our people built this village over water. … What if we made our own place to play?” And the boys do! Using wood scraps, old barrels, nails, and more, they build their dream. Though the floating pitch presents a few difficulties, the boys hone their skills to compensate. The swaying pitch teaches them superior balance. Since there is no fence surrounding the pitch, they gain better ball control. And the slippery surface helps them learn better footing.

When the boys travel to the mainland for a football competition, they compete admirably, though they don’t win. But they understand that their hard work and persistence mean they are champions anyway.

In an author’s notes, Khiani writes, “Today the island has one permanent pitch built on stilts and one floating pitch. The boys eventually formed the first official youth football team of Koh Panyee and became one of the best youth leagues in southern Thailand. They created a tradition that is still alive today.”

‎Illustrator Dow Phumiruk admirably showcases the beauty of Thailand’s scenery and people, and Khiani’s hopeful narrative points to the gifts of creativity and visioning with which God has blessed people. (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers)

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