Read an Excerpt
The Soccer Mystery
By GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Charles Tang
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 1997 Albert Whitman & Company
All rights reserved.
Let's Play Soccer
"Oh, Benny, what are you doing to Watch?" Violet Alden asked her six-year-old brother.
Benny Alden grinned. He had tied a bandanna around Watch's head with a leaf tucked under one side to make an eye patch. "I'm a pirate," he said. "And I am making Watch walk the plank."
Benny had put a board across the stump that the Aldens used as a step up into the old boxcar in their backyard. He was standing on top of the board. Watch, who was a small black-and-white dog, was standing at one end of the board.
"Okay, Watch, jump off the plank into the ocean!" Benny commanded.
Watch looked over his shoulder at Benny. Then he sat down on the end of the board and yawned.
Ten-year-old Violet laughed. "I don't think Watch wants to walk the plank."
"I know," said Benny. "I'm not a very good pirate yet. I need more practice." Benny had been very interested in pirates ever since he and his sisters, Violet and twelve-year-old Jessie, and his fourteen-year-old brother, Henry, had visited Charleston, South Carolina. They had gone to help a friend of their grandfather's rebuild her house after a hurricane. But they had ended up finding a pirate's treasure.
Benny jumped off the stump. Without his weight on it, the board tipped forward.
"Look out!" said Violet.
"Woof!" said Watch, and jumped onto the grass as the board fell off the stump.
Benny and Violet both laughed now. Watch ran in circles around Benny, wagging his tail and looking pleased with himself.
"Come on, said Violet. "You'll have to practice being a pirate later. Soo Lee is here."
Soo Lee was the Aldens' cousin. She was the daughter of Aunt Alice and Uncle Joe. They lived in Greenfield, too.
Violet, Benny, and Watch went across the backyard toward the kitchen door of the big old white house where they lived.
The red boxcar was the Aldens' old home. The white house was their new one.
After their parents died, the Aldens had run away. They had heard that their grandfather was a mean person. They'd made a home in the abandoned boxcar in the woods, where they had found Watch and adopted him.
Then Grandfather Alden had found them, and he hadn't been mean at all. So the four Aldens and Watch had come to live with their grandfather in his house in Greenfield. And he had even moved the boxcar to the backyard so that they could visit it whenever they wanted.
"Maybe Soo Lee would like to play pirate", said Benny.
"No," said Violet. "Soo Lee is here so we can practice soccer. She brought her soccer ball. We signed up for the Greenfield Summer Soccer League, remember?"
"I remember," said Benny. "The tryouts are this weekend," said Violet. "We want to be ready."
She opened the back door, and they walked into the kitchen. Mrs. McGregor, the housekeeper, was stirring something in a big bowl.
"Is that a cake for dinner?" asked Benny hopefully.
"It might be," said Mrs. McGregor with a twinkle in her eye. "You'll find out later."
"We're going to practice soccer with Soo Lee," said Violet. "At the park. May we get anything for you while we are out?"
"Maybe ice cream to go with the cake?" added Benny.
Mrs. McGregor shook her head. "Thank you, but I don't need anything. Not even ice cream. Don't be late for dinner, now."
"We won't!" Benny promised.
Soo Lee, Henry, and Jessie were in the front yard. They were kicking a soccer ball back and forth. When Soo Lee saw Benny and Violet, she put her foot on top of the ball and stopped it.
"Come on," she said. "Let's hurry and practice." She gave the ball to Jessie, who put it into her pack.
When they reached the park, Jessie took the ball out of her pack. Then Soo Lee took another ball out of her pack.
"Two balls!" said Violet. "But you only use one ball to play soccer, don't you?" Like Benny, Violet had never played soccer before.
"Don't worry. We'll just use two balls for practice," said Henry. He, Jessie, and Soo Lee had all played soccer before. Soo Lee was a very good soccer player. She had played in Korea, where she was born. Like her cousins, Soo Lee was an orphan. Aunt Alice and Uncle Joe had adopted her.
Soo Lee, Jessie, and Henry showed Benny and Violet how to kick. Then they showed them how to run and kick the ball to someone else to make a pass.
"You can use every part of your body to move the ball, Soo Lee explained. "Except your arms and hands. Only goalies can use their arms and hands to catch the ball and keep it from going in the goal."
Soo Lee, Henry, and Jessie showed Benny and Violet how to kick the ball and keep it just in front of their feet on the ground as they ran forward. "When you move the ball forward like that," Soo Lee explained, "it is called dribbling."
Then Soo Lee and Jessie put their backpacks next to each other a few feet apart. "This will be our goal," said Soo Lee. "I'll be the goalie. You divide into two teams and play against each other and try to score."
Henry and Violet were one team. Jessie and Benny were another. They kicked and passed the ball and tried to keep it away from each other and shoot it into the goal. But no one could score. Soo Lee caught every shot they kicked toward the goal.
Then Henry stood at the goal. He caught every shot, too.
"You're good at the goal. And you're tall. You would make a good goalie," Soo Lee told him. "Maybe you should try out for that."
Watch sat on the sidelines and watched them play. Sometimes he barked. Then, suddenly, just as Benny got the ball and tried to kick it toward the goal, Watch ran out onto the field! He knocked the ball away from Benny. Then Watch began to push the ball with his nose.
Everyone stopped, and when they did, Watch pushed the ball right past Henry and into the goal.
"Yeah, Watch!" cried Soo Lee.
"Watch is a good soccer player, too," said Violet. She wiped her forehead with her sleeve. "Whew! I'm tired."
"We should stop. We don't want to be too tired to practice tomorrow," said Jessie.
Everyone agreed that it was time to stop. But before they could go home, they had to chase Watch to get the soccer ball back. He was very good at keeping it away from the others.
At last Benny caught him. "Game's over, Watch," he said, laughing.
As they walked out of the park, Violet said, "Soccer is not as hard as I thought it would be."
"You are doing really well, Violet," said Soo Lee. "So are you, Benny."
"Thank you," said Benny. He bent down to pat Watch on the head. "But you know who the best player is? Watch!"
"Woof!" said Watch.CHAPTER 2
Which Team Is the Best?
"Gosh," whispered Violet to Jessie. "Look at all these people! What if I'm not on a team with anyone I know?" Violet was a little shy, and sometimes meeting new people made her nervous.
Jessie said, "I'm glad there are a lot of people. That means we'll have lots of teams. We'll make new friends, too."
"Maybe," said Violet. She still felt shy. But Jessie's words had made her feel better.
The day for tryouts for the summer soccer league had come at last. The sun was shining, and the grass of the soccer fields next to the community center was very green. Everywhere, children of all ages were racing back and forth passing soccer balls to each other. Others were dribbling up and down the field.
"Look," said Benny. He pointed to a girl who was bouncing a ball on the top of her foot. As they watched, she bounced the ball higher and caught it with the top of her knee. Then she bounced it even higher and made it land on her head. She bounced the ball on her head a few times, then let it drop to the ground, where she caught it with her foot again.
The girl smiled a little as she played with the ball. Her dark ponytail swung behind her, brushing against her golden yellow shirt.
"Wow," said Violet. "That looks like magic."
Henry nodded. "It's called juggling. She looks as if she has very good soccer skills."
Just then a tall man wearing a cap with a picture of a soccer ball on it called, "Attention! Could I have your attention, please?"
Some of the people trying out for the soccer league came over to face the man. But others kept on playing. The man pushed his cap back and smoothed his short blond hair. Then he stepped up onto the bottom seat of the bleachers, raised a whistle to his lips, and blew it loudly.
All of the players stopped running and talking then, and gathered around him at the foot of the bleachers. "Thank you," he said briskly. "I'm Stan Post. Everyone can call me Stan. I'm the director of the Greenfield Community Center Summer Soccer League. I'll also be one of the coaches. Now, I'll introduce our other coaches and go over a few things before we begin try-outs."
A boy with long blond hair and a red shirt said loudly, "This is so boring! I know all the rules."
"I don't know all the rules," said Benny, frowning at the boy.
"Shhh!" said someone behind them.
The boy rolled his eyes, but he didn't say anything else.
When Stan had finished introducing the coaches, he had everyone write their name on a name tag and stick it to his or her shirt. Then he divided everybody into groups. He had each group dribble and pass and shoot while he and the coaches watched. Stan wrote lots of notes on a notepad he was carrying. So did some of the other coaches.
Then Stan divided the groups into smaller groups and each of the smaller groups went with a coach to different parts of the soccer field.
"We're going to watch everybody for a little bit longer to make sure we put you on the right teams," Stan explained.
Violet was relieved to see that Jessie was in her group. She was glad that she knew someone. But she was not so glad that the boy in the red shirt was also in her group.
"Okay, everyone," said the young woman who was their coach. "I'm Gillian McPhee. Everyone calls me Gillian. We're going to practice a few more drills—moves and skills that you use to play soccer."
Violet said softly, "What if you don't know how to do a drill?"
Near her, the boy in the red shirt gave a huge exaggerated sigh of impatience. Violet felt her cheeks grow red.
But Gillian only smiled at Violet. "If you don't know a drill, I'll explain it to you," she said. She looked at Violet's name tag. "Just do your best, Violet. That's what is important." Violet smiled back at Gillian, feeling less nervous. Gillian had friendly brown eyes. Her dark brown hair was short and curly, and she was wearing tiny earrings in the shape of soccer balls. She was rather tall and her legs looked strong.
The boy in the red shirt said, "What's important is winning. That's what my brother Stan said. He should know, since he is in charge of the league."
Gillian glanced over at the boy. "Winning is important, Robert," she said. "But so is having fun and trying hard." She raised her whistle to her lips. "Okay, everybody, let's go. We're going to practice passing."
At the other end of the field, Benny, Soo Lee, and Henry waited as the girl in the yellow shirt sprinted up to them. Their coach, Craig Crenshaw, was having them run relays. He ran up and down the sidelines with each group of sprinters, talking all the time.
"Good, good, good," they heard him pant as he ran past. "Keep going, that's it. Good, good, good." His wiry legs flew as he talked, and his sunburned face grew even redder while his wild reddish brown hair seemed to stand out like the mane of a lion around his head.
Soo Lee ran forward with the next group. The girl in the yellow shirt stopped and bent forward to rest her hands on her knees, trying to catch her breath.
"Wow, you're fast," said Benny.
The girl straightened up and fanned her face. "Thanks," she said cheerfully. She reached into her pocket and pulled something out. "I think this helps. Red licorice. Would you like some?"
"Yes, thank you. My name is Benny," said Benny pointing to his name tag. He stared at the girl's name tag, not quite sure he could read the word.
"My name is Elena," she said. "Elena Perez." She broke some licorice off for herself and chewed it.
"You're a good player, too, aren't you?" asked Jessie. "We saw you juggling a little while ago."
"I practice a lot," Elena said. "Someday, I want to play for the Olympic soccer team."
"You will," said Benny thickly, chewing on a big piece of licorice. There was admiration in his voice.
"I hope so," said Elena. "I have been practicing for it for six years, ever since I was six years old."
"Six years old! That's how old I am," said Benny. "Maybe I can be an Olympic soccer player, too!"
"Maybe you can, Benny," said Jessie. "But now it's your turn to run."
Benny looked up and saw that Henry had just gotten back. He took off running as fast as his legs could carry him.
A couple hours later, Stan stood up on the bottom bench of the bleachers and called everyone over.
"Thank you," he said. "You have all tried hard and played well. The coaches will meet and decide which players are on which team. We will post the results on the community center bulletin board tomorrow morning when the center opens. The teams will have their first practice then."
Stan, Craig, Gillian, and the other coaches walked back toward the community center. They talked and gestured as they walked.
"Whew!" said Jessie. "That was hard work!"
"But it was fun, too," said Violet.
"I like soccer," said Benny. "But it makes me hungry."
"Me, too," said Soo Lee.
Henry said, "I'm really thirsty. Let's go get a drink of water from the water fountain inside. The water will be good and cold."
"Good idea," said Soo Lee. "Then I have to hurry home for dinner."
The community center was almost empty because it was late in the day. Each of the five children took long, cool drinks of water. They were about to leave when suddenly they heard loud voices coming from behind a partially open door just down the hall.
"I don't care what you say Stan. It is important for everybody to get a chance to play," said a man's voice.
Jessie, Benny, and Soo Lee exchanged looks of surprise. They had heard that voice a lot that day. It was the voice of Craig Crenshaw.
A woman's voice said, "Yes. Craig is right. Everyone who tried out today should be on a team."
"Gillian," whispered Violet.
"Putting beginners in the league is a waste of time," said Stan's voice. "In case you've forgotten, Anthony Della, the head coach at the university, is looking for an assistant coach. And having a bunch of beginners playing for you is not the way to get the job."
"It's unfair not to include everybody. This is a community league—" Craig said. But before he could finish, Stan interrupted him.
"I don't care if it's fair or not. I'm not letting a bunch of beginners stand in my way!" snapped Stan. The door of the office flew open and he stalked out. He marched down the hall toward the door at the other end. He never even saw the children standing by the water fountain.
A moment of silence followed. Then someone inside the office sighed. "He's right, you know, Gillian. Coach Della will be looking for assistants who coach winners, not beginners."
The door of the office opened. Gillian and Craig came out. "I know," Gillian said. Then she saw the Aldens and stopped in surprise. "Oh! Hello!"
"Hi. We were just getting some water," said Jessie quickly. She didn't want the two coaches to think that they had been deliberately eavesdropping!
Gillian hesitated, then said, "That's good. It's important when you are hot and have been exercising to drink lots and lots of water."
She and Craig walked by and went out the front door.
The Aldens followed slowly. Outside, Soo Lee said, "Good-bye. I'll come over early tomorrow and we can go to the community center together to see which teams we are on.
"If we are put on a team," said Violet. "I don't think Stan wants beginners like Benny and me to play soccer."
Jessie said, "We will all be put on a team. Don't worry."
"I hope you're right, Jessie," said Henry.CHAPTER 3
"You'll Be Sorry!"
"You're not eating very much breakfast, Benny," said Grandfather Alden the next morning.
"I'm not hungry," answered Benny. "I'm worried."
"Worried? About the results of the soccer tryouts?" asked his grandfather.
"Yes. I'm not that good at soccer yet," said Benny. "I need lots and lots of practice before I can be as good as Elena Perez."
"Elena Perez? I know Dr. Perez and her husband, but I've never met their daughter Elena," said Grandfather.
"Elena is a very good soccer player," said Jessie.
"Yes," said Violet. "She'll definitely be put on a team. But what if players who are beginners — like me — aren't put on a team?"
She was thinking of the conversation they had overheard among Gillian, Stan, and Craig. If Stan had his way, beginning players like Violet and Benny wouldn't be allowed to play at all.
"If you aren't put on a team, none of us will play in the league, either," said Henry.
Just then Mrs. McGregor came in with Soo Lee. When her cousins offered her breakfast, Soo Lee shook her head. "Hurry," she said. "It's almost time to go to the community center to see which soccer teams we are on."
The Aldens finished their breakfasts quickly. Benny drank all of his orange juice and finished his cereal, but he didn't ask for seconds as he usually did. Although he felt better knowing that his brother and sisters would help him, and would not play soccer without him, he was still a little worried.
Excerpted from The Soccer Mystery by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Charles Tang. Copyright © 1997 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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