Book Club: Grace On The Court

Author: Maddy Proud
ISBN: 9781760640330
RRP: $14.99
Publisher: Black Inc. Books
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

I have a family full of boys, with a couple of token girls, so I have noticed that there are lots of sporting books for young boys. There’s basketball, soccer, football and cricket – and they’re just the ones I’ve bought. I haven’t noticed a lot for girls but I have to admit that I haven’t really been looking.

Children can be so super active and a lot of the time the really active kids can think of nothing worse than being tied to one spot reading a book. I think that if you can offer these children a book about the sport they are passionate about it can ignite a love of reading, or at least make them more likely to actually sit and read. Most of the sporting books I have come across in the last couple of years have been written by prominent sportspeople and that makes them more appealing, people spot a recognisable name on the cover and pick it up.

An athlete playing sport at an elite level is well placed to be able to write about their sport because they are sure to have that depth of knowledge and firsthand experience that you can’t get from research alone. Yes, they are sure to know their sport in and out and to be playing at an elite level I would think they would know a lot about the whole game and not just their position but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will translate to the page.

Maddy Proud is a former Adelaide Thunderbirds netballer who now plays for the NSW Swifts and she has penned the tale of Grace Palmer, a 13-yr old netball nerd heading into high school. She is passionate about netball, and not just playing. She likes to know all about the game, break down the stats and she loves to watch professional netballers in action.

Grace is heading into high school with her two best friends, Mia and Stella, and her twin brother Angus who is just as sports-mad but his game of choice is AFL. The three girls have been playing netball together for years and can’t wait to start playing in their high school team, except it’s all a little nerve-wracking this year because the start of high school means an influx of netballers that they spent their primary school years playing against.

Netball is the main focus of Grace on the Court, the game is present in every chapter as the girls try out for their high school team, wait for selections and then have to learn to work together in a brand new team. There are some great descriptive passages offering blow by blow commentary of games that are well written and entertaining, sure to thrill the netball fans. The girls head out to watch a Thunderbirds game so we get a bit of a blow by blow of that one too. Proud also talks quite a bit about training, the hard slog but also the importance of a great coach and one who remembers that the main reason most children get involved in a sport is for fun.

The girls are 13 years old so even though they may be netball mad there is a lot more than that going on in their lives. It’s the beginning of high school with all of its challenges; new school, new classes, new team mates and a shift in priorities that comes with growing up. There is also the exciting upcoming competition that will allow one group of fans to go see boy band Friday @ Five in their home city.

Proud insightfully explores the shifting dynamics that come with starting high school, the difficulties that arise when girls from opposing teams find themselves competing for spots on the same team, and how they have to navigate being team mates after years as arch enemies. It’s not always an easy transition and alongside it all is the burgeoning awareness of boys as more than just friends, family dynamics, schoolyard gossip and the need to juggle schoolwork, social life and training schedule.

Grace on the Court would make a great starting point that follows Grace and her friends right through their high school playing careers and beyond. I’m not sure if this is set to be a series but I think it would be fun to follow Grace further than just year 8; it would be great to find out how things all pan out.

The characters are 13 but I think this would be appropriate for slightly younger children as well, though probably not too much younger as the girls are starting to discover boys and develop their first crushes. Ultimately this is a tale of friendship and netball in almost even doses with family issues as a sideline. It was engaging, entertaining and fun. A great debut by the multi-talented Maddy Proud.

Grace on the Court is book #8 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2018.

Maddy Proud can be followed on Twitter.

Grace on the Court is published by Black Inc. Books and is available through Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Black Inc. Books 10 of our Beauty and Lace Club members and their children will be reading Grace on the Court and I look forward to hearing what they think, and our reviews may be written by our young readers.

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