A sweet and heart-warming story about a young girl who wants nothing more than to play soccer, in a town where there is no girls' team.
Shamini Flint lives in Singapore with her husband and two children. She began her career in law in Malaysia and also worked at an international law firm in Singapore. She travelled extensively around Asia for her work, before resigning to be a stay-at-home mum, writer, part-time lecturer and environmental activist, all in an effort to make up for her 'evil' past as a corporate lawyer! Shamini has written many books for adults and children, including the popular Diary of a Soccer Star series.
This novel has an engaging narration from the main character Maya – a soccer obsessed 10 year old girl. Maya’s observations on her family, school, friends and town give the reader an insight into life in Kuantan, Malaysia at the time of the 1986 World Cup. Maya is caught between two cultures with an English dad and an Indian mum. Maya’s family is in conflict and she is determined to find a solution.
This novel explores many important issues and these could form a basis for a novel study or a springboard for discussion with a class. Flint explores family breakdown, changing relationships and dynamics and the repercussions it has for Maya and her brother. Through the character of Maya’s grandmother, Flint explores cultural expectation and prejudice. Maya’s grandmother refers to her grandchildren as “half breeds” and relates attractiveness to height, “whiteness” and makes constant assessments of her daughter and granddaughter’s marriage prospects.
Maya’s school has students from diverse racial backgrounds. Maya refers to religious and racial difference saying, “It’s tough being a minority.” (p31). Students who are different are bullied by both their classmates and by teachers. Racial stereotypes are also explored in this novel, “Maradona is short and stocky and cries a lot. Dad says all South Americans are like that.” (p32). Flint describes traditional weddings and family picnics. Students could explore the similarities and differences between these activities and celebrations to their own experiences.
Maya’s heroes are soccer players. The novel explores the concept of sporting heroes and this could be further developed in the classroom. Other characters in this novel display qualities that are admirable and are changed as a result of key events in the novel. Maya uses her sporting heroes and favourite book characters as a guide for life “Kids in books always do the right thing” (p69).
Flint effectively uses descriptive language to build a picture of Maya’s life. The use of simile to describe people, places and things is particularly effective. Maya’s new football looked “like a watermelon wrapped in cotton wool” (p44) and her pink dress made her look like “a pink bird that stands on one leg” (p51).
Ten is a novel that would appeal to primary school children and the reader is immediately drawn to Maya and her commentary on the important people in her life. Ten deals with important issues and concepts with humour and realism – there is no fairy tale ending – however characters change and find strength in family and new friendships.
Lyn Pritchard, Hunter Valley Grammar School, NSW
Maya is obsessed by football and dreams of playing soccer for her country. She hero-worships Zico, a brilliant Brazilian soccer player who wears the number 10 jersey; hence the title of the book. But everything is against her. She goes to a single sex girls’ school; where the girls play netball, not soccer, and she doesn’t even have access to a football. She thinks about making one out of plastic bags and string but resigns herself to playing netball, which she hates. Maya’s description of the futility of netball is funny.
For children who don’t bother with sport stories: this book is not only about sport. Maya has an Indian mother and an English father. Cultural issues are raised in this book including being a minority, family tensions around traditions and meeting others’ expectations. Maya’s grandma expects her to be a ‘good’ Indian girl and can’t understand her wish to play soccer. Maya’s dad has found it hard earning a living in Malaysia and after some failed business ideas, he moves back to England without the rest of the family. Maya wins a trip to England in a soccer tournament sponsored by a wealthy father from Maya’s school. Maya struggles to come to terms with the family split and hatches a daring plan to get her father back.
This book would be great for children aged 9 to 14. It is also about friendship and reaching out to the friendless in a school setting.
Nova Gibson, Massey Primary Librarian
This book is fabulous. Engaging, humorous and sad. Engaging for anyone interested in Soccer. Could be engaging for reluctant readers, even into Secondary school. My niece of 16 years enjoyed reading the story over a couple of days.
I like the way the story is told by a ten-year old girl who is very keen about the game of soccer. Maya, the ten year old, is culturally in the minority in her school yet she is not afraid to step out and follow her passion to achieve her goal to play soccer. Maya’s compassion to other students who are in the minority in her school is both considered and thoughtful. Early in the story her attitude to Batumalar’s punishment by the teacher for being late to class makes Maya feel uncomfortable and she then feels guilty that she will not befriend Batumalar as she is an unpopular student and this may affect her friendships in the class. Further into the story Maya finds a way for Batumalar’s cultural difference to be accepted by exposing Batumalar’s soccer skills and this leads to other students opening friendship to her. This attitude may help readers see a way to accept others for their colour, cultural or gender differences.
I think the author, Shamini Flint, has cleverly woven Indian culture and historical references with humour into the story through her character, Maya. I especially like the ‘twisted smile’ reference she repeats numerous times through the story and the references to Hindu and Buddhist beliefs and influences on the characters in the book, including Maya.
The Malay language that is taught in Malaysia with no consideration to other language groups is a point of discussion for teachers with their students. This also happens in Australia with many Indigenous and multi-cultural languages, it can be a struggle for students in Australia learning English who have another language they speak before English. A class discussion around the question of, ‘how do people cope when they go to school with English as their second or third language’? Would be a worthwhile conversation to have in a classroom, using this book as a reference.
Maya’s relationship and empathy to other people grows throughout the story as she becomes more confident and competent with her soccer abilities and this in turn helps her to accept her own father leaving the family circle. She hopes that one day her father will come back, and her confidence that she can make this happen is never fulfilled but she grows in her acceptance of this and she takes a positive attitude in accepting this situation. I am sure Maya’s personal experience and feelings of difference would help other children find a way to positively accept their personal experience of family break ups more easily and help them see that they can learn to survive such disappointments.
For students to read Maya’s thoughts (page 122) as she walks into the football stadium in England with her nervous mother:
‘I may be skinny and brown and wearing Brazil colours – but I’m just like them under the skin’.
This could be an interesting discussion point for a teacher to have with students. Such a discussion could ease conversation and breakdown any racist thoughts that may be imprinted in children from parents or grandparents and bring more harmony to a class and schoolyard and ultimately society. This also reminds me of a statement from an old Aboriginal man, Bill Neidje, who said in his book, Story About Feeling:
‘We might all have different colour skin but our blood all the same, red’.
Diane Lucas, Part time teacher, Milkwood Steiner School, NT
Maya has a dream: to play soccer for her country. Her idol is Zico, a brilliant Brazilian soccer player who wears the number 10 jersey; hence the title of the book. But she has many obstacles to overcome. She goes to a single sex girls’ school with no soccer team and she doesn’t even have her own soccer ball. Instead she has to play netball, which she hates. Her description of the pointlessness of netball is rather amusing.
This book is not all about sport. Maya has an Indian mother and an English father. This makes her a minority and cultural issues are raised in this book including family tensions around traditions and meeting others’ expectations; Maya’s grandmother just wants her to be a ‘good’ Indian girl. Maya’s dad has found it hard living in Malaysia and he moves back to England without the rest of the family.
Maya has to come to terms with a family split and hatches a daring plan to get her father back when she wins a trip to England.
This book would be great for children aged 8 to 14. It is also about friendship and reaching out to the loners in a school situation. Maya does not do the right thing at first but can reflect on her actions and make changes.
Claire Cheeseman, Laingholm Primary School, NZ