There are quite a few books in the early reader and middle grade space celebrating Australian sports and sporting heroes, but fewer to be found in picture books. We Are Matildas breaks the trend, with the story of an aspiring girls’ football (soccer) team. This sponsored release is part of a publishing program leading up to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The story is fictional, but sports journalist and author Shelley Ware incorporates tributes to real world players along the way. Shelley is a Yankunytjatjara and Wirangu woman from Adelaide, South Australia, who is also a teacher and First Nations education consultant.
Young Jazzy has a dream ‘that’s so big everyone tells me it’s impossible’. She wants to be a Commbank Matilda and represent Australia. There’s a local tournament coming up, but Jazzy doesn’t have a team. She sets about recruiting neighbourhood kids, handpicked for their skills. There’s Lani, who’s tall and strong. She’ll be the goalie. Then sisters Sierra and Storm who love scary rides. They’ll be in defence. The Little Matildas are soon assembled, and Jazzy gets them working hard – but maybe a little too hard. Jazzy needs to learn that having fun is just as important as winning. And win, they do!
This is a fun, if predictable, read, full of encouragement to dream big and let nothing stand in your way. In addition to being lively and full of movement, Serena Geddes’ illustrations bring diversity and dynamic character definition to the spreads, ensuring a lot of different children might see themselves in the pictures. This will be a charming souvenir of the World Cup for young fans, and a useful way to improve representation of women’s sport on the classroom or library bookshelves. Puffin 2023