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BOOKS: Magic Tree House and companion book make for kickin' good reading

Fun facts about soccer show up in the Fact Tracker companion to "Soccer on Sunday."

When a new Magic Tree House Book is released, the attention usually focuses on Jack and Annie's adventure.

In "Soccer on Sunday," by Mary Pope Osborne, this will likely be the case. Jack and Annie travel back in time to the 1970 World Cup match to watch Pele play.

However "Soccer" (The Fact Tracker companion book) is also worth reading. As you'd expect, the book begins with the rules, skills and history of the game.

Osborne delights in the unusual. For example, Roman soldiers played the game with coconuts that they brought back from Africa.

When people played an early version of soccer (or "football") in Scotland and England during the Middle Ages, they set their goals miles apart. Games often involved entire villages and included tripping, punching, kicking and even stabbing.

Osborne also looks at World Cup history, especially the history of the stolen World Cup Trophies. Back in 1966, the stolen trophy was discovered under a bush by a dog named Pickles.

Yet Osborne also shows how soccer affects the lives of people, particularly in poorer nations. In some areas, "Sockket Balls" have been donated. As kids play, the ball stores power. At night, the ball emits light so that kids can read and do homework.

Unfortunately, the book doesn't give much attention to female soccer players. After mentioning the ban on women by the England Football Association from 1921 to 1917 (they thought the game was unsafe for women) it seemed as if Osborn would emphasize the current popularity of soccer among girls and women.

However, of the nine superstars that Osborne describes, only two are women (Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach.) Furthermore, only a few of the photographs show females.

Other than this distinct void, "Soccer" is great for young audiences. It's the perfect companion for "Soccer on Sunday" and for the upcoming FIFA World Cup action in Brazil.

"Soccer." Magic Tree House Fact Tracker. By Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce. Random House, 2014. 128 pp.