The following article is written by Bruce William Deckert, the author of the new book “Serengeti Friendship: Soccer Forgiveness.”
What if some young wild animals in the Serengeti could play sensational soccer? Oh, and talk, too. And what if they were great teammates and fast friends? (One was especially fast — you guessed it, the cheetah.)
And what if a big disagreement threatened their friendship and team unity on the eve of the Wild Animal World Cup?
The answer to these what-ifs is found in “Serengeti Friendship: Soccer Forgiveness” (revised edition).
The book was chosen for the World Cup Exhibit at the Nelson Mandela Foundation. The revised edition, published in November 2017, is available at Amazon.com.
An appendix — the book within the book — addresses some faith- and apologetics-related topics that connect with the story. That appendix is aimed at college students and above, while the story is aimed at the middle grades — but is really for young people of all ages.
As for the author? That would be me: Bruce William Deckert.
I appreciate this opportunity to discuss “Serengeti Friendship” with you, yet I feel a certain awkwardness because I hope to avoid the pitfall of shameless self-promotion. But I believe the book is worth reading, and something tells me that readers need to know about a book before they can actually read it.
I served as an editor at ESPN.com from 1999-2015, but more about my bio later. First, let’s look at the story.
“Serengeti Friendship: Soccer Forgiveness” tells the tale of the African Animals soccer team, focusing on four friends who are the team’s key players: Charlie Cheetah, Elrod Elephant, Jonathan Giraffe and Zoe Zebra.
The African Animals play at Serengeti Stadium, with their intense and exciting matches described by an animated play-by-play announcer. The team is preparing for the Wild Animal World Cup when a major disagreement leads to a crisis of trust. Another friend, Gabrielle Gazelle, gets caught in the middle.
By the way, the announcer’s style is influenced by a number of announcers from the human world of sports. As you read the story — or if you read it — see if you can detect who those influences are.
Three of the friends try to resolve the crisis by seeking the counsel of a wise Serengeti owl, who soars over the savanna before a World Cup warm-up match.
At the match, the elephant goalkeeper makes a shocking (and odorous) save — the first of its kind, according to the ELIONS Sports Bureau. By the way, don’t confuse ELIONS with the Elias Sports Bureau, the renowned keeper of stats and sports history in the human realm — though ELIONS does serve that function in the Serengeti sports realm.
At the owl’s upside-down tree, the three friends learn essential lessons about forgiveness and friendship. But will it be in time to restore the African Animals’ team harmony so they can make a run at the Wild Animal World Cup? To find out … yes, give “Serengeti Friendship” a read.
Plus, the book contains five appendixes, including a glossary, outtakes and Appendix E.
Appendix E addresses the wise owl’s reference to the “ancient writings” and features some musings on those ancient writings — known to us as the Bible — and their relationship to the creation/evolution debate, the faith/science fracas, the journalism/history question and more.
“Serengeti Friendship: Soccer Forgiveness” has received kudos from a number of sources, including Dr. Thomas Howard, a renowned C.S. Lewis scholar, author and longtime English professor.
“Serengeti Friendship is amazing, delightful, and actually quite moving. I’d love to see the book break through to an enormous audience,” says Dr. Howard. “It stands at a polar extreme from everything that comes at young people — well, all of us, let’s face it — in this chaotic epoch of ours. The sheer, transparent goodness at work in it is immensely refreshing.”
Besides the book’s inclusion in the Mandela Foundation’s World Cup Exhibit, in conjunction with the South Africa World Cup, “Serengeti Friendship” has been featured on a morning radio show on WTIC 1080, Connecticut’s news station. The book has also been highlighted in the Hartford Courant.
And now, a brief author’s bio, in addition to my editorial experience at ESPN.com: I began my journalism career at The Post — the one in Wethersfield, Connecticut, not New York or Washington. Before that, I was a Star-Ledger paperboy. A New Jersey native, I grew up rooting for both the Yankees and Mets.
Sometime between those Star-Ledger days and today, I won a writing award (op-ed) and a design award (front page) from the Society of Professional Journalists. Meanwhile, I hope I haven’t sprained my arm by patting myself on the back. But I digress…
I’ve spent most of my adult life in Connecticut, where my wife grew up as a Red Sox fan. We started dating as students at Gordon — a Christian college in Massachusetts — shortly after the Mets topped the Sox in the 1986 World Series. (You may have heard about how the Mets won Game 6 — something to do with a guy named Bill Buckner.) We have a son and a daughter … both Red Sox fans.
Growing up, my home church was Willow — not mega-Willow Creek, but Willow Grove Presbyterian in Scotch Plains, New Jersey.
Thank you for your interest in reading this far!
For more info:
Book — “Serengeti Friendship: Soccer Forgiveness”
– Bruce William Deckert