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Book review: Me and Aaron Ramsey by Manon Steffan Ros

06 May 2024 5 minute read
Me and Aaron Ramsey by Manon Steffan Ros is published by Firefly Press

Jon Gower

Over the course of some forty books we have come to realise that in Manon Steffan Ros we have a most gifted storyteller, able to reel in the reader like a sewin on a tight line.

Her über-successful Llyfr Glas Nebo/The Blue Book of Nebo deservedly won the Yoto Carnegie Medal and is being enjoyed by ever increasing numbers of readers as it is translated into other languages – totalling ten to date.

This latest offering, Me and Aaron Ramsey is no exception when it comes to quality storytelling.

It’s a title aimed at the middle grade market but was equally enjoyed by a reviewer who is long in the tooth.

As football novels go it is certainly sure footed, if you pardon the lame pun.

The story belongs to Sam, a young fan besotted with his beloved Rambo, Aaron Ramsey and his postman father.

Dad is also a soccer player, given a chance to play for money for a local club, Peniel and he acquits himself well enough to earn a place on the team.

Not only that, he scores on his debut, making his young son’s heart soar.

On the edge
But while life on the pitch is full of goal-scoring satisfactions life at home is not so good.

Sam’s mother and father are often arguing, or sometimes, more ominously fall into silence.

One night the father doesn’t come back at all, having slept on a mate’s sofa. The cracks not only show but widen, leaving Sam and his young sister sometimes balancing on the edge.

In Sam’s case he consoles himself with dreams of football: ‘I’d replay old matches in my head, as if I had a YouTube link wired directly into my brain.

“It didn’t matter whether the games were friendlies or ones that really counted – I’d watch them over and over again, trying to memorise every goal and save and foul and offside so that I could replay them in my mind in the late hours.

“Every time I started to worry about Dad, I’d force my mind back to football, playing entire games in my head until I fell asleep.’

After his father has an accident Sam has even more reasons to worry, as Dad badly damages his leg in a car accident, the crash threatening to bring his footballing days to an abrupt end.

Confined to the house and faced with getting around in a wheelchair Sam’s dad slumps into a sullen silence.

But luckily a neighbour comes up trumps, when not only does she organise a visit to Cardiff to see Wales play but also encourages Dad to use the time on his hands to tackle something long overdue, namely his inability to read and write.

That is one of the other subjects of this book and one which would make it ideal to place in the hands of teenage boys who enjoy footie far more than reading.

In ‘Me and Aaron Ramsey’ the act of reading is enabling, life enhancing, not least when Dad tells his son excitedly that he ‘can see what’s happening in the book inside my mind…as if there’s a film in my head, created by the book.’

All of this story is presented effortlessly well, with the tight cast of characters deftly drawn.

And then there’s the closely-observed world of football at all levels, from kickabouts around the corner to Saturdays at the small clubs, minnowing down the lower reaches of the pools.

Then there are the bigger teams, such as the one Sam visits where the ‘club was open and was serving food – proper food, not just hotdogs and burgers – and there were proper stands for the fans.’

And then there is the very top echelon, to be found at the Cardiff City Stadium when Sam and his dad go to see Wales play England, staying on the 11th floor of a grand hotel in the city.

When they get to the turnstiles in Leckwith they don’t go in straight away, choosing rather to savour the atmosphere;- the faces painted with red dragons or daffodils; the smells of food and sweat and perfume and the busy traders of T-shirts and scarves, clan colours for fans proclaiming their allegiance.

I’ll freely admit that I found some of this engaging book very moving, to the point of bringing on tears.

You get to know Ros’s characters quickly and she drives the plot along at a lick when needs be, like a coach driving his forwards upfield.

In this tightly-drawn and affecting novel, Manon Steffan Ros has certainly scored again.

Me and Aaron Ramsey by Manon Steffan Ros is published by Firefly Press and is available from all good bookshops.

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