From Publishers Weekly
St. John (Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer
) builds on his 2007 New York Times
article about the Fugees, a soccer program for boys from families of refugees from war-torn nations who have been resettled in the town of Clarkston, Ga., 13 miles east of Atlanta. Led by the founder and coach Luma Mufleh, a strong-willed, Jordanian woman who turned her back on a privileged past to stay in America after attending Smith College, the three youth teams are a conglomeration of players from Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East. The challenges they face are many, including an ongoing fight against city hall for a field on which to play, and getting by with subpar equipment. Their biggest challenge, however, is the difficulty immigrants face in learning the ways of a strange land and living with the memories of tragedy (some players had lost a parent to violence or imprisonment). In spite of it all, the Fugees compete admirably with mostly white, better-funded suburban teams. St. John begins with an inspiring description of a beautifully played game and then delves into the team's formation, but his storytelling takes on the methodical approach of a long series of newspaper articles that lack narrative flair and progression. (Apr.)
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From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-In this young adult adaptation of Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference (Spiegel & Grau, 2009), St. John presents the remarkable, inspiring story of a persevering female coach, a soccer team of refugee boys, and the Georgia town that is their home. With conviction and skill, Jordanian Luma Mufleh established and coached three soccer teams known as the Fugees. Her players were haunted by memories of war-torn homelands and personal tragedies and were struggling to adjust to life in the United States. However, her high expectations and willingness to help families impacted her young players. Despite challenges to locate a practice field, minimal funding for uniforms and equipment, and zero fans on the sidelines, the Fugees practiced hard and demonstrated a team spirit that drew admiration from referees and even their competitors. Featuring pivotal soccer games and anecdotes about interactions between a coach and her players, tension among the boys, family responsibilities, and a town wrestling with its changing identity, St. John delivers a vivid, cohesive story about hope and determination. Profiles are enriched with background information on the conflicts that drove the players from their homes in Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Respecting cultural differences, building a global community, and the importance of getting involved are powerful, motivating messages that will resonate with teen readers, not just soccer fans.-Gerry Larson, formerly at Durham School of the Arts, NC α(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.