Project Description


Defending Irene

by Kristin Wolden Nitz

“This is not a game for you here,” Matteo hissed. “Do you want to make us lose?”

Irene loves soccer, a passion she inherited from her Italian father. She thrills to the sound and feel of the ball exploding off her foot for a shot at the goal. At school back in Missouri she was one of the top players on her girls’ team. But things are different in Merano, Italy, where the bilingual Irene and her family have come for a yearlong stay. There is no soccer team for girls in the small, very traditional Alpine town. Irene decides to join the highly competitive boys’ team, but she has little idea what she’s getting herself into. She must prove herself to the strict coach, the “mister.” And her teammates make it clear they don’t want her on the field. Especially Matteo, the team’s star player, who goes out of his way to make Irene unwelcome. But Irene does not give up easily, even when the disapproval of her Italian grandmother and the doubts of her new classmates—including her best friend, Giulia—threaten to undermine her confidence.

Author Kristin Nitz has created a complex adolescent character whom readers will root for as she struggles to find her place on the team and in a new country. The story also offers a fascinating and often humorous look at a collision of cultures as well as lively descriptions of fast-paced action on the soccer field.

Hardcover: $14.95
ISBN: 978-1-56145-309-2
Total Pages: 224
Size: 6 x 9
Language: English
Format: E-book
ISBN: 978-1-56145-871-4
Age Range: 8 – 12
Language: English

Purchase this E-book through the following vendors:


Accelerated Reader
AR Quiz#: 82397
AR Reading Level: 3.9
AR Points: 7

F&P (Fountas & Pinnell)
F&P Level: U
F&P Grade: 5


“What keeps this tale from being just another soccer story with play-by-play action is the unique setting; the inventiveness of the chapter headings, which consist of Italian words, pronunciations, and definitions; and Irene’s determination.” ―School Library Journal

“Soccer fans, especially girls, will appreciate the well-drawn action sequences and Irene’s feisty spirit.” ―Horn Book Guide


Young Adult Top Forty ―Pennsylvania School Librarians Association 2005

Meet the Author

Kristin Wolden Nitz is an avid sports fan, coach, and the author of many magazine articles on kids and sports. Nitz is the author of Suspect and Defending Irene, and has also written nonfiction books, including Play By Play Softball, Play By Play Track, and Play By Play Field. She lives in Michigan. You can visit her website here.