Bowen, Fred. Out of Bounds
1 August 2015, Peachtree
ARC from Publisher
Nate and his soccer team, the Strikers, hope to be able to defeat the Monarchs, a talented team who bested them the previous year. Nate and his friend, Sergio, are good players, and practice hard because they want to be competitive. When Nate sees his aunt, a former college player who is in a women's league, kick the ball out of bounds rather than score when a player on the opposing team is down, Nate is surprised. His aunt says that not benefiting from the injury of another player is a long standing soccer tradition, even if it is not technically in the rules, and she is surprised that he has never heard of it. The two also make a bet-- the person to get fewer goals will have to make chocolate chip cookies for the one who scores more! As the game with the Monarchs approaches, both teams try to compete against each other, even comparing times in gym class sprints! At a crucial moment in the game, Nate decides to embrace his aunt's idea of good sportsmanship, but his teammates aren't happy with him. How can he convince them that winning is not the most important thing on the soccer field?
Like all Bowen sports titles, this book had lots of good descriptions of soccer playing, and even had schedules, scores, and times for readers who like statistics. Since I've never actually seen soccer being played, I'll have to assume that all the plays are accurate, but I know that they are written in an exciting way that makes the book read quickly.
Nate is a typical middle grade boy, who jokes with his friends at lunch, loves his soccer, and starts out thinking that beating the Monarchs is the only way that he can be happy. His aunt is a great character, and it is fun to see him go to her soccer games, as well as accompany her to games about which she is reporting. Sergio is a good foil, and he, too, eventually sees the benefit of being sportsmanlike.
Additional information, like a cookie recipe (and descriptions of Nate having to make them with his aunt!) and real life examples of good sportsmanship are a nice supplement. Younger readers, or older readers who struggle, will find this book is one that engages their interest and challenges their perceptions of how sports should be played.