#RivetingReviews: Charlotte Graver reviews MADANI’S BEST GAME by Fran Pintadera, illustrated by Raquel Catalina

Aimed at children between the ages of five and nine, Madani’s Best Game is a heartfelt story featuring a neighbourhood football team and its star player. Originally published in Spanish in 2021 by Ediciones Ekaré, the narrative has now been translated into English and Japanese and has been warmly received across the globe, even being listed as one of New York Public Library’s Best Spanish Language Books for Kids in 2021. 

Madani’s Best Game introduces readers to Madani, a young boy who as ‘everyone in the neighbourhood knows’, plays football like no other. Albeit not wearing any shoes, Madani can make the ‘ball twirl’, ‘catch it on his head’ and of course score a multitude of fantastic ‘gooooals!’. Everyone in the neighbourhood loves him, but for Madani, there is something missing. Rather, it is someone: his mum. Having missed all of Madani’s games due to her unremitting mountain of work, Madani’s mother has only ever experienced her son’s talent through the distant cheers that reach her house as a whisper. That’s all about to change, however, with what Madani has planned.

More than a story about a little boy’s football prowess, Madani’s Best Game is abour a child who dreams of sharing his skill with the person he loves most. A story that, as Pintadera himself notes, is very human and close to us all.

What I adore about Madani’s Best Game is how the love within the characters manifests itself in every fibre of the narrative. From gentle humour and lively illustrations to personal touches such as Madani wearing the number 14 (the date of both Pintadera’s and his son’s birthday), warmth and affection radiate from the pages, a concept that likely arose from the story’s inspiration being Pintadera’s work in new immigrant housing; a time he looks back on fondly.

Furthermore, transitioning from the textual to the visual, this warmth is portrayed through Raquel Catalina’s illustrations. Warm sepia tones and gentle strokes convey both the love the neighbourhood has for Madani and the love that Madani has for his mum. What is particularly beautiful about Catalina’s illustrations is that they incorporate the entire community and do so with detail: the waiter serving tables, the new mum looking after her child and the street cleaners clearing the footpaths. It is clear through the imagery that this is not just a story centring upon one little boy’s skill; the community surrounding Madani is equally important.

Unadorned and heartfelt, Madani’s Best Game is refreshing and poignant. It teaches us to look beyond the visible and see that what matters most in life isn’t who owns the fanciest pair of shoes, it’s being surrounded by those we love. A message which we can all agree is quite true.

Reviewed by Charlotte Graver


By Fran Pintadera 

Illustrated by Raquel Catalina

Translated by Lawrence Schimel

Published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (2022)

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Charlotte Graver currently works as a translation project manager and previously lived in Spain teaching
English. She adores translating and researching children’s literature and this was the topic on which she centred her MA studies.

Category: The Spanish RiveterApril 2023 – The Spanish RiveterReviewsThe Riveter


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