The very experienced and talented Phil Earle explains at the end of the book that he has merged two stories here: the true story of Pickles, the dog that really did find the World Cup with his owner, Dave, and a story like that of Fara Williams, a homeless girl who became a professional and successful footballer, notably for Everton, 2005-2017.
He turns Fara into young Elsie, who, with her Dad, owns Pickles, and the story is told through Pickles’ eyes. He loves football too, and his dribbling skills, he says, are better than Elsie’s – the whole family love football. Pickles sees that Dad gets a lot of letters from ‘Bill’, which cause him to worry, and when Dad loses his job he finds it difficult to admit his difficulties, but they have to move to a smaller flat. Dad puts a brave face on it, (Pickles is always on the look-out for the good things that are ‘just around the corner’) but the flat, in a converted office block, is awful, though neighbour Samir and his family invite them to watch the World Cup matches with them. Dad and Elsie queue to see the Trophy when it comes to the Tigers’ Stadium, but they learn that the Cup has been stolen. Pickles resolves to find it, and of course he eventually does. Dad is too ashamed of their life to be interviewed in the papers, but the discovery in the park had been noticed, and at the Cup Final, a huge fuss is made of Pickles as the dog that found the Cup. Elsie’s Junior team had won the opportunity to play on the pitch at half-time, and Pickles joins in with his ball tricks, so it all becomes a joyful experience, and Pickles knows that the family are a great team together.
It’s a charming story, and really works with the addition of a young female footballer. Barrington Stoke’s creamy paper and clear font make this more accessible for readers with difficulties, and Eliza Paganelli’s illustrations show a harassed Dad, Elsie’s fun with football and Pickles, skilfully and entertainingly. This book is sure to be popular.