This is a stunning book. Beautifully understated text, gorgeous pictures, celebrating friendship, resilience, and the universal love of soccer (or football, depending on where you're from).
The poverty of Ajani and his friends isn't emphasized; they're presented in a way that a child in similar or very different circumstances can empathize with. Every child has to make compromises when they play with friends, every child has to deal with bullies, every child has a friend who makes mistakes and has to be forgiven. Children in very different circumstances in the US will be able to compare themselves to Ajani and his friends and understand where they're coming from while still getting a glimpse into a different world.
Verdict: Recommended, especially for older children in grades 1 - 4.
ISBN: 9780763645717; Published April 2010 by Candlewick; Review copy provided by another Cybils panelist