Pelé: The King of Soccer by Eddy Simon (review)
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Simon, Eddy Pelé: The King of Soccer; illus. by Vincent Brascaglia; tr. from the French by Joe Johnson. First Second, 2017 144p
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-62672-979-7 $19.99
Paper ed. ISBN 978-1-62672-755-7 $15.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-250-19459-6 $9.99 R Gr. 6-9

Almost any kid who pulls on uniform and/or gear and heads to a field is at some point drawn into a “Who was the greatest?” smackdown discussion of old timers: Babe Ruth? Muhammad Ali? Nadia Comaneci? Tiger Woods? Michael Jordan? Then there’s the name Pelé, the Brazilian footballer from way, way back in grandpa’s (great-grandpa’s?) era, and a good chance for agreement. While many kids know about his rise from poverty in Brazil to professional play at fifteen and to his first World Cup at seventeen, fewer know what happened in between those spectacular plays cited in evidence of his domination of the sport. Simon’s graphic novel import, translated from his 2016 Le roi Pelé: L’homme et la légende, presents a far richer biography than the usual highlights-tape fare, allowing readers to consider the impact fame, adulation, separation from family, limited education, continual training and [End Page 133] travel, race, and rabid international sports rivalry might have on a maturing young man. Simon also contextualizes Pelé’s career in terms of the political and football milieus over which he had no control, particularly Brazilian governance after 1964 (“A ‘Law and Order’ regime that many would call a ‘military dictatorship’ is put in place for the next twenty-one years”) and dangerous change in on-field policy. Chapter breaks, humorous visual characterization, and conventional movement between panels will aid readers new to graphic novels make an easy transition.

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