Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Book Review: Out of Bounds by Fred Bowen (2015)

This week, I'm posting reviews of books by children's author Fred Bowen in anticipation of an author interview with him that will be published here on the blog this coming Thursday. This review was originally posted on Goodreads in 2015.

Nate Osborne and his teammates on the Strikers soccer team want nothing more than to beat their rival team, the Monarchs in this year's championship. While it feels like the boys might be willing to do anything to win, Nate learns from his aunt, who is also a soccer player, that there are certain unspoken rules in soccer about fair play and good sportsmanship, including a tradition where game play stops when an injury occurs. At first, when Nate tries to put his new-found knowledge into action in a game, his teammates and opponents scoff at the idea, but ultimately, they all realize it is better for the best team to win based on ability alone, not because of the other team's misfortunes.

This book is another great addition to Fred Bowen's series of middle grade sports books. Like the others, Out of Bounds uses a sporting experience as a means of teaching an important life lesson, and in an afterword, ties the story to real-life examples from sports history. This formula works so well, and Bowen's writing is engaging, lively, and easy to read. What stands out most in this specific story is that Nate's role model is not an older brother or a famous soccer player, but his aunt. There aren't many books where female athletes mentor boys, and it is an interesting dynamic to explore. Especially fun is the bet Nate and his aunt have about who will score more goals in the season, the loser of which has to bake cookies for the winner. There is also a greater focus on statistics and standings in this book than in some of Bowen's other stories, which gives it a nice STEM connection, and also appeals to kids who like both sports and math. Also notable is the dialogue, which rings true as the real talk of middle school boys, but without a lot of the vulgarity and toilet humor that is often associated with this age group. Bowen's books are not just interesting, but wholesome too, which means parents are likely to appreciate them as much as their kids.

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