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Over the Line Paperback – 15 Mar 2014
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About the Author
Originally from Leeds, and previously shortlisted for the Blue Peter Prize, Tom is best known for his Football Academy and Foul Play series. He credits articles about football with getting him into reading and libraries across the country attest to the fact that he is one of the main motivating factors for boys getting into books today. Tom lives in West Yorkshire.
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It's based on a true story (although, as Tom himself says, 'it is a novel, not a history book') about a professional footballer who plays for Huddersfield Town, Jack Cock. Jack is repeatedly told that footballers are too scared to fight in the army and that there's only one field where you can ever get honour, the battlefield. As the months pass, Jack sees many of his friends enlist in the army and, feeling he needs to help defend his country, eventually joins the Football Battalion (which consists entirely of professional footballers). After a short period of training in England, Jack is soon shipped over to France to fight.
He learns that life on the front line is a lot tougher than he could ever have imagined, and the reality of war quickly sinks in. Jack realises that not all of his fellow soldiers will make it back home safely and witnesses huge amounts of suffering and death, alongside great bravery. Jack is selected to play as a striker in the Flanders Cup, a football competition to be held between all the battalions which has been organised by the leaders of the army to help keep the soldiers' morale high. For 90 minutes at least, this competition provides him with something to focus on other than killing.
Over The Line is a great short novel and I learned a lot while reading it. The book is quite graphic in places, without ever being gruesome, and the description of the trenches paints a miserable picture of life for the soldiers on both sides. The action on the football pitch and the action on the battlefield are equally exciting and, because so many soldiers died in the war, none of the characters are guaranteed to survive. It's clear that a lot of research went into the book and it is a thoroughly enjoyable introduction, if that's possible, to the life of a soldier in the First World War. I would recommend it for children in Year 5/6, or possibly even as a class novel.
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