PB Review: A Boy and a Ball

A Boy and a Ball is a poignant moving story about refugees that will start conversations and encourage kids to understand the plight of people around the world.

The story begins with a boy innocently kicking a ball with his brother. The setting is of a city that has been ravaged by war, with buildings blown open and nobody else around. Then shadows descend and his ball is flattened after their father protects them. This prompts them to leave and run away on a boat.

To be honest, I put off reviewing this book for a while, as it is so deep and troubling, I found it difficult to review and do it justice. I do think it is an incredibly good book, but I just didn’t know how to discuss it. Also, something that held me back as well was I didn’t know how to describe the ‘shadows’ that appear in the book (and can be seen on the front cover). I don’t know if they are bombs or soldiers or just a symbolic image for fear and all things scary. I think it’s a combination of both. I showed a few people I know to get their opinions, all of which varied, but everyone agreed it was a deep thought provoking book with incredible illustrations.

The ball is nice symbolism too, and makes it relatable to children and conveys the point thatkids over the other side of the world just want to play too.

“When the boy slept, he dreamed of soft grass and a new ball.”

The writing is simple and easy to follow, with a nice flow and the illustrations are stunning. The pages that describe the boat journey of the refugees were my favourite and really quite jaw dropping. I also like the use of colour, and how at the beginning of the book in the first setting of the city that has been blown up, it is all dusty oranges and sandy yellows, to the middle pages of blue and green, then back to the same colours at the end.

This is definitely a story for older children. I did read it to my toddler, but it obviously went way over his head (and mine a little at times) and he was much more interested in the fact that there was a ball in some of the pictures. Also he kept pointing at the shadows and asking what they were, and I had to reply honestly – “I don’t really know.”

A Boy and a Ball is an incredibly powerful moving book that is great for discussion and grounding us in our reality, and reminding us that we are pretty lucky to live where we do – but there are places that aren’t like this. A confrontational book that will definitely suit older readers ready for tougher discussions.

Title: A Boy and a Ball

Author & Illustrator: Phil Cummings & Phil Lesnie

Publisher: Scholastic

Published: 2020

Ages: 4-8


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