Until the closing scenes, this picture book features just two characters: an unnamed narrator and his dog. The narrator practises getting his football boots on, then he practises running, catching, bouncing and finally kicking. Throughout, the narrative makes it clear that he is young enough to still be learning the difference between right and left. He puts on his left sock, then his right sock, his left boot, then his right boot, he runs, catches and bounces to his left and his right. So he has mastered the difference between Left and Right. (Interestingly, there is an implied favouring of his Left, since in most scenes that is the side he starts with.) When it comes to kicking, however, he uses his right foot to kick, but surprisingly it doesn't work.
The dog is a lively character throughout the narrative, but as the narrator fails repeatedly to kick with his right foot, the dog looks dismayed, bored and finally tires of waiting and falls asleep. After a wordless pause, the boy tries kicking with his left foot - and it works! A crowd of other children in the distance suddenly erupts in applause, yelling 'GOAL!'
That final word points to the importance that small physical tasks assume as we try to conquer each successive gross motor challenge in childhood. Although the child is Indigenous, the story is not culture-specific. (Although for Australian adults who did not grow up with the AFL football code (indicated by the strip the boy is wearing), the back cover blurb may cause momentary hesitation in specifying that 'Kick With My Left Foot' is about 'Australia's favourite game'.
'Kick With My Left Foot' has strong potential appeal for pre-school and early childhood readers who are still learning right from left. The twist when it turns out that he can't kick with his right foot, but can with his left, also confirms a lesson that some of these readers will be in the process of learning: right or left handedness is not necessarily a choice that can be predicted and controlled. Adults who might not immediately appreciate the importance of such simple challenges as getting across right and left might refresh their acquaintance with Ezra Jack Keats's classic picture book 'Whistle for Willie', which highlights learning to whistle as an important stage in growing up.
Paul Seden is descended from the Wuthathi and Muralag people of North Queensland. Karen Briggs is a descendant of the Yorta Yorta people whose ancestral homeland radiates from the junction of the Goulburn and Murray Rivers in North East Victoria.