Friday, September 03, 2021

Soccer Trophy Mystery

Bowen, Fred. Soccer Trophy  Mystery
September 1st 2021 by Peachtree Publishing Company
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Aiden plays soccer on the Thunder team with his friend Daniel, and they are bound and determined to win the trophy this year. When they go to the library with Aiden's twin sister Ava to get copies of Wharton's The Age of Innocence for school, they learn from the librarian that the trophy is question is a replacement, the original one having been stolen from the library forty years previously. The mystery was never solved, and since the twins' grandmother had been a librarian at that time, they decide to investigate. Their grandmother is 84, and her memory is not the best, but she does give them a few clues. They interview the police chief at the time, who is very helpful and interested, as well as the soccer coach, who is not. Daniel mentions that this is not the first missing soccer trophy, and the trio delve into the story of the disappearance of the World Cup trophy in 1983, which has never been solved. When the solution to the mystery ends up being closer to home than they ever imagined, how will they handle it?
Strengths: If you deal with grades 3-8 and don't have a well-stocked collection of Bowen's sports books, drop everything right now and put them on your book order. They are short, strong enough on sports details that I don't quite understand some of them (which is a GOOD thing), and have characters who work really well together. Adding an element of mystery to this is perfect, and a great way to let fans of early chapter book mysteries like Ron Roy's or David A. Kelly's Ballpark Mysteries challenge themselves a bit. The retro cover is attractive, and different from the regular sports books, and there's a bit more sports history than Bowen usually has, which is interesting, but the girl power message remains strong. I'm curious to see if Aiden and Ava get to do more investigation. 
Weaknesses: Bowen hasn't written much in the way of mysteries, so there are a few clunky moments when the kids decide to investigate that could have been avoided. The slight Encyclopedia Brown vibe will work well with younger students, but older ones who love mysteries will expect a more serious mystery. Think Souders' Coop Knows the Scoop-- it's a historical MURDER mystery. It was a bit unnerving when the kids went to visit the former police chief and he just invited them into his house to chat. Sure, Encyclopedia would have done that, but that seems like a bad idea in 2021. (Although, if the former police chief turned out to be a psychopathic killer who kidnaps the children, my students would totally read that!)
What I really think: Sports books are always super popular in my library, and Bowen's books see high circulation. Definitely purchasing, and will be interested to see how these sports mystery books evolve. It's good to see that Bowen made it to third base with this book, but it wasn't quite a home run.

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