Kicking Goals by Shirley Deuchrass
Written in the form of a diary, Kicking Goals, is the story of a young boy, Jack, growing up in 1930s rural New Zealand. The everyday life on a farm is vividly depicted through Jack’s descriptions of his mother’s and father’s daily tasks as well as his brothers’ and his own set chores such as gathering eggs and feeding animals.
Life is tough; animals are there to work as are the people who live there and when Jack’s father allows him to keep one of the kittens from a litter it comes with a warning that the kitten must be trained to hunt; it is not simply a pet.
Going to town-Owaka- is novel enough for such a visit to be an exciting treat. Outdoor games and the radio are the only entertainment available to Jack and his brothers. Christmas is celebrated through a special meal and ‘sensible’ presents such as clothes and books. While their lives may seem restricted, there is a richness in the seasons of the farm and what they mean in terms of the patterns of work and in the closeness and the routines of the family.
Jack dislikes school where he is bullied and feels unable to manage the academic work expected of him. Rugby, however, is his passion and his determination and sheer doggedness in working at kicking goals and practising results in his experiencing success when he is chosen to play in a team for the secondary rugby tournament.
Written with humour and a real understanding for the main character, Jack, and his environment, Kicking Goals is a strong reflection of past New Zealand life. It is also inspirational in terms of Jack overcoming his challenges and achieving his goal. The story is based on Shirley Deuchrass’s own father, Jack McNab, who grew up in similar circumstances and became an All Black with the wonderful photographs at the back of the book depicting his childhood and the last photograph of Jack in his All Black rugby jersey.
Reviewer: Paddy Richardson
Austin Macauley Publishers