Cricket Crazy by Vivienne Bailey

There is a serious lack of sports fiction for kids, especially books published in New Zealand. We seem to be good at publishing sports memoirs and celebrations of sports teams aimed at adults, but there is not much around for kids. Many of the sports-mad kids aren’t huge readers, but stories about sport are the perfect way to hook them in to books. Vivienne Bailey’s Cricket Crazy, published under the Ahoy! imprint from local publishers Cuba Press, is a wonderful and much-needed novel for kids, focusing on cricket.

Tom Willard is a cricket-crazy eleven-year-old, who dreams of making it big, like his cricket idols. For a while now, it’s just been him, his dad and his dog, Archie. Now his dad has a new girlfriend, called Tanya, who is spending more and more time with him and his dad. Things that used to be just for him and his dad, like cricket, now include Tanya. Tom doesn’t want someone new being part of their life, because he knows that things will change. Things go from bad to worse when Tom’s best friend, Fletcher, gets sick, Tom’s new cricket bat goes missing, and then he is dropped from his team. Tom knows he will have to train hard if he is to make it back on his team and help them get to the finals. Luckily, Tom finds a new friend in Izzy, an all-rounder who helps him improve his skills and get one step closer to his dreams.

Cricket Crazy is a great mix of sports action on and off the pitch and family dynamics. It is engaging for sports-mad kids, especially those who love cricket, and at just 110 pages, it is the perfect length for struggling or reluctant readers. The parts of the story that take place during matches are exciting and quite tense. Tom is a character that sporty kids will be able to relate to, with his focus on improving his skills, getting to the finals, and his rivalry with Menace Mitchell. There will be many readers who will be able to relate to Tom’s family life too, with someone new coming in to the family. From the start, Tom doesn’t like Tanya, and when Tanya starts trying to change things at home, Tom becomes more frustrated. Vivienne Bailey understands her audience well, especially the way that they speak. Tom and his friends feel authentic. Vivienne’s previous experience, working in school and public libraries, has obviously helped in writing this story.

Cricket Crazy is a great addition to primary and intermediate school libraries. I know it will fly off the shelves at my school! The wonderful cover, by Theo Macdonald, will certainly grab kids’ attention.

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