Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004
Buy from

Rate this Book

Sonderbooks 77
    Previous Book
    Next Book

Young Adult Fiction
Children's Nonfiction
Children's Fiction

        Previous Book
        Next Book

Picture Books

2004 Stand-outs
    Previous Book
    Next Book
2003 Stand-outs
2002 Stand-outs
2001 Stand-outs

Five-Star Books
    Previous Book
    Next Book

Four-Star Books
Old Favorites
Back Issues
List of Reviews by Title
List of Reviews by Author

Why Read?
Children and Books
Links For Book Lovers

About Me
Contact Me 
Post on Bulletin Board

View Bulletin Board

I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations


*****Defending Irene

by Kristin Wolden Nitz

Reviewed May 7, 2004.
Peachtree, Atlanta, 2004.  185 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (JF NIT).
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004,
#2, Children's Contemporary Novels

I confess that part of the reason this is one of my favorite books is that it was written by my friend and e-mail writing buddy.  So I had some input into the writing, though it certainly didn’t need much.  I’m pleased and proud to see the book in print, and delighted to read it between published covers.

Irene Benenati has spoken Italian from birth, even though she lived in America, since her father is Italian.  Now her family is spending a year in a small city in Italy.  She was a star on their girls’ soccer team in the States, and of course she wants to play soccer here.  She discovers that they don’t have a girls’ soccer team, so if she wants to play, she’ll have to play with the boys, who aren’t real thrilled about having a girl on the team.

Here are some of the wonderful things about the book, and why I think that people who are not biased will also like it:

First, Irene is a feisty character, and a good soccer player.  We cheer for her rising above the prejudice, teasing, and mean tricks.  She shows that she can be an asset to the team, even if she’s not a boy. 

It’s a great cross-cultural story.  Thousands of American kids live in Europe right now, including my own, but there aren’t very many books about these kids.  I love that this book gives American kids a window on what it might be like to live in Italy, how so many things are the same, even if many things are different.

I love the way the author has translated the dialogue.  The kids are speaking in Italian, and even though she writes it all in English (with a few Italian words we come to know sprinkled in), she conveys the spirit of the Italian by using word choices and arrangements a little different from colloquial English.  It reminds me of native German speakers speaking English, not quite the same word choices as I would use, and it beautifully and subtly gives us the spirit of the Italian words. 

For example, one of the soccer players asks for her phone number.  When the team taunts him, he says, “No.  I ask this for my twin sister, Giulia.  It would please her to meet you, Irene.”

It’s also nice to read a sports novel for girls.  I admit that I’m not a sports fan in any sense of the word, but even I could follow and enjoy her descriptions of the competitions.

Defending Irene is a fast-moving, interesting story of a girl showing that she can compete, despite prejudice against her.

Reviews of other books by Kristin Wolden Nitz:
Saving the Griffin

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

-top of page-