Book review: The Little Linebacker

As part of Multicultural Children’s Book Day I received the uplifting softcover picture book The Little Linebacker: A Story of Determination by Stephen Tulloch and Maria Dismondy, illustrated by Heather Heyworth.

Sure to appeal to young football (or other sport) fans, The Little Linebacker is the story of young Stephen Tulloch, who grows up to be a real-life linebacker for the Titans and the Lions.

Every few pages in The Little Linebacker represents a challenge in Stephen’s lifelong goal to become a pro football player. As a young child, he’s impatient with Little League practices; as he gets older, he struggles with his math grades; as a teen, he is chosen last for the team. (Challenges are gentle and relatable to most children; this book does not tackle larger societal issues.)

Each setback is met with realistic disappointment on Stephen’s face until he finds sources of inspiration: his mom, a mentor, a friend, even an inspirational poster (“You can. You will. End of story.”).

In each case, Stephen sets his mind to his goal and works to do better, whether it’s channeling his energy into studying math or supporting his teammates in whatever capacity he can. These solutions are also easy for kids to understand and apply to themselves.

By the end, Stephen’s success is achieved through his willingness to work hard, keep trying, and to work collaboratively, goals that are emphasized in the reading tips at the beginning of the book as well as “Tully’s Tips for Kids” at the end of the book.

With text featuring longer sentences and multisyllabic words, this picture book is designed to be read aloud or by moderately comfortable self-readers. The illustrations are bright, cheery, and cartoony, with easy-to-recognize character expressions against familiar backdrops (kitchen, playground, classroom). The multicultural cast reflects the book’s themes of cooperation and mutual support.

The Little Linebacker is part of several educational programs by the authors: The Stephen Tulloch Foundation, Operation 55, and Maria Dismondy’s books, blog, and public speaking programs.

For families and teachers seeking uplifting, sports-themed stories that emphasize determination and teamwork, The Little Linebacker lines up!

Click here for more multicultural children’s books as well as a FREE Classroom Kindness Kit! #ReadYourWorld

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