Big Kicks by Bob Kolar
Biggie the Bear (seriously, we have a picture book character named Biggie now. I am relieved to note that the only attribute he appears to share with the Notorious B.I.G. is his size, and possibly an interest in midcentury modern decor) is kind of a solitary guy. He likes his stamp collection, and jazz, and peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches, and so, when the soccer team knocks on his door because they are down a player, he is a little hesitant.
Rightfully so. Poor Biggie - the first time he tries to kick the ball, he falls flat on his butt.
You know, there are never enough books about kids being nervous about sports. There are REALLY never enough books about kids sucking at sports. Roasted Peanuts by Tim Egan is the only one I can come up with off the top of my head. I mean... sports! It's so fraught! Failure at sports resonates well into adult life - I just asked around the workroom, and both Dances With Chickens and The Admiral's Daughter remembered specific childhood incidents involving softball, field hockey, and in my case, the 400-meter hurdles - that had kind of scarred them for life.
So I like to see books like this, in which the kid doesn't succeed on the playing field, and the sky doesn't fall as a result. He doesn't become a better player through dedication and practice. A patient mentor doesn't materialize to drill him until he can return to the playing field triumphant. He doesn't all of a sudden discover a special skill that makes him a star (although in fact Biggie's clumsiness does win the game). No. Biggie has no skills, but he gives it a shot, and the other kids don't ridicule him, and he ends up joining the team - as a fan.
If only the late, great Biggie Smalls could have learned to sit on the sidelines too.
Oh, wait: also it's funny! When the team comes a-knockin', this is how it goes:
"I can't ask him," said Chicken Rabbit. "I'm too afraid."Chicken Rabbit! that's funny!
"I can't ask him," said Twirly Squirrel. "I'm too little."
"I can't ask him," said Smelly Smell Skunk. "I'm too stinky."
"I forgot what to ask him," said Fluff the Duck.