Friday, September 22, 2023

The Two-Minute Warning (Football Mysteries #1)

Kelly, David A., and Thibeault, Robert (illus.)
The Two-Minute Warning (Football Mysteries #1)
August 22, 2023 by Curveball Books
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Kate and Mike, who had many adventures with Kate's mother, a sports reporter, in The Ballpark Mysteries, are back! This time, Kate's mother is being sent to Dallas to interview Carlos Cook, the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. They get to see the Cowboys' practice facilities, but when they finally meet Carlos, they find out that there is a mystery bothering him. Someone is sending him notes with a black football on them. When Carlos was in college, he took a class where he studied Treasure Island with several teammates, and they had a joke that this football, similar to the black dot featured in the book, was a "two-minute warning". These always come with messages indicating that Carlos should retire, and he thinks it might be one of the young players, like Trey Thomas, who want him to quit so they can get his job. Things don't look good for Trey, since he wears a cowboy hat, and someone wearing a cowboy hat has been seen in the area when the notes were dropped off. Kate and Mike start investigating (after an exciting tour of the facilities!) and also talk a lot to Carlos' college friend Blake, who is creating art for installations around the stadium. When the threats continue and Carlos' is flustered, everyone worries that this will affect his performance. Will Kate and Mike be able to solve the mystery and assuage Carlos' worries before the big game?
Strengths: When my children were in early elementary school, they adored beginning chapter books series. Didn't really matter what they were about, the more books, the better. There is something addicted about familiar characters and easily identifiable plots. Kelly's Baseball Mysteries came out in 2011, and are a perfect choice for readers who love sports. A lot of the time, sports enthusiasts are reluctant to read other types of books, so I was so glad to see this new football series! Cousins Kate and Mike get along well and support each other, and the mysteries they solve are very realistic. There are fantastic details about the areas to which they travel, the sports facilities, team history, and the workings of the games on and off the field. The mystery element is perfect for this age group, giving us hints and a couple of false leads. I'm looking forward to seeing what other teams are highlighted as the series continues. 
Weaknesses: Random House should not have stopped publishing Kelly's work. I don't understand publishing. Sports books for elementary school readers are so hard to find. 
What I really think: I don't deal quite as much in early chapter books as I used to, but I know many young readers, even strong ones, are enthralled by series like these. This is similar in length to 1990s titles like Magic Treehouse, A to Z Mysteries, American Girl, The Ruby Princess and Junie B. Jones and would work well for readers who like Little Shaq, Jake Maddox titles, and Mills' Franklin School Friends. 

Ms. Yingling

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