By Author / Illustrator
Phil Earle, Elisa Paganelli
Barrington Stoke Ltd
Paperback / softback
The only thing that Pickles loves more than football is his best friend, and owner, Elsie. She's smart, kind, funny and AMAZING at football. But even though Dad works hard to provide for them, life off the pitch is tough. It's their team of three against the world and right now it feels like their side is losing.
With the announcement that the World Cup is coming home to England and that Elsie's team might have the chance to play in a halftime match at Wembley Stadium, it's the happiest they've ever been. But when disaster strikes their dreams are shattered and it looks like its up to Pickles to save the world (cup) ...
Truth is stranger than fiction, so the saying goes, and in The Dog that Saved the World (Cup), Phil Earle cleverly draws on not just one but two of the real world stories which surround us, one from over 50 years ago and one much more recent, to create an incredible, emotional and unforgettable story of football, family and furry, four-legged friends.
Pickles the dog loves football but loves his owner, Elsie, even more. Luckily she's an amazing football talent and together they win the chance for their team to play in a half-time match at the World Cup final at Wembley Stadium.
Off the pitch life isn't so great. Elsie's mum walked out when she was a baby so dad does his best to provide for them and keep a roof over their heads: their team of three against the world. When dad loses his job and they're left homeless and penniless, the dream of playing at Wembley keeps them going. When the unthinkable happens and even that is taken away, Pickles decides it's up to him to save the world (cup).
Narrated skilfully, and frequently hilariously, from the perspective of Pickles, this winning story tackles so much more than football and the real-life theft of the World Cup which thwarted police officers, only to be found by a dog. It is also an honest and moving insight into the reality of family poverty, food insecurity and hidden homelessness in the UK. This struggle is real for so many in our classrooms and will undoubtedly increase post-pandemic.
Written with honesty and kindness, this will prove a reassuring read for those who recognise themselves in it and a real eye opener on the reality of life for those lucky enough to live above the poverty line, encouraging empathy and understanding. Inspired partly by the real-life story of women's footballing legend, Fara Williams, homeless while playing for England, this will prove a superb discussion starter of a book in the KS2 / lower KS3 classroom and is a fitting tribute to Fara's determination and strength. That same resilience is shared by Elsie's dad who does his best to protect and provide for Elsie, 'putting on his best smiley face' despite the crushing worry and constant fear over unpaid bills and not having enough food to put on the table. Elisa Paganelli's stylish illustrations capture every emotion perfectly and really bring this very special story to life off the page.
Heartbreaking and heartwarming by turns, this is ultimately a hopeful book about the importance of family, of pulling together as a community and just being there for each other. It's who you have around you, not what you have, which matters.
Barrington Stoke have a well-deserved reputation for producing brilliant stories by outstanding authors to unlock the love of reading for those who find it more difficult - and this is one of their best to date. A bighearted book which has real appeal, with something in it for everyone and which will be enjoyed by everyone: crime, football, real drama and excitement, relatable situations and characters to really care about.
Phil Earle is at the top of his game and this super readable story also enjoys a specially designed dyslexia-friendly typeface, enhanced spacing between and around the text and heavier weight, cream tinted paper to ensure maximum enjoyment and minimum struggle.
Another winner at every level, I could not have loved it more - well played!
104 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Eileen Armstrong, school librarian
Suggested Reading Age 9+