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The Mystery of the Soccer Snitch
By GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Anthony VanArsdale
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 2014 Albert Whitman & Company
All rights reserved.
The Big Day Arrives
"Benny, come on! Hurry!" called Jessie. "The soccer fest starts soon!"
Twelve-year old Jessie was wearing red, her team color.
Benny, who was six and wearing blue, trotted down the stairs. "Will there be lots of food at the soccer feast?"
"Not a soccer feast, silly" said Jessie. "A soccer fest!"
"'Fest' means 'festival,'" said Henry, the oldest. "I looked it up." Henry was fourteen and was always looking things up in the dictionary on his new tablet.
"Shouldn't there be food at a festival, then?" Benny asked. "I think there should at least be peanuts and hot dogs and lemonade."
"We had breakfast a half hour ago!" Jessie said. "You ate all those pancakes! You can't be hungry yet."
"I'm not hungry yet," Benny said. "I just think there should be food!"
"The winners get coupons for a free cone at Igloo Ice Cream," Jessie said.
"I sure hope my team wins!" Benny shouted. He didn't see Jessie and Henry exchange smiles. What Jessie and Henry knew—but Benny didn't—was that all the children who participated would get a free cone at Igloo Ice Cream.
"Warm ups start soon," Henry said. "We should go."
"This is going to be fun!" Benny said.
"It sure will," Henry said. He was wearing the yellow and black of a referee. All week he'd been studying the referee's manual Coach Olson had given him. The older boys and girls were assistant coaches and referees.
"Does everyone have their cleats and shin guards?" Henry asked.
"I packed everyone's equipment and an extra ball in this bag," Jessie said. She always brought extra equipment just in case someone needed it.
"Yay!" shouted Benny. "Let's go! Coach Olson said we are all marching in a big parade before the games, just like at the big tournament in Brazil!"
"At the real tournament it's called the opening ceremony," said Henry. "I think in Brazil there will be fireworks."
"I wish we could go to the big tournament!" said Benny. "Kayla is so lucky!"
A few weeks earlier, the town of Greenfield erupted with excitement when the newspaper ran a front-page story with the headline, "Greenfield Girl Chosen as International Child Mascot!" Kayla's parents and Coach Olson quickly organized a soccer fest so everyone could get into the spirit of the upcoming international tournament. The soccer fest would last one day—an opening parade followed by a series of games, ending with an award ceremony—but the children had been practicing for the games almost each day for the past two weeks.
Now, finally, the big day was here.
"We're going to go warm up now, Grandfather!" Jessie called out.
Mr. Alden opened the door to his study. "I'll be along shortly," he said, "before the opening parade."
When Benny opened the front door, Watch, their dog, ran in from the kitchen. Watch panted excitedly, his toenails clipping across the floor.
"Don't worry, Watch," Grandfather told the dog, patting his head. "I'll bring you, too. But you can't go now. The children will be warming up."
After everyone said goodbye, Benny bounded out the door and down the steps to the street. The other three followed.
Together the children walked past clapboard houses with neat picket fences in front and carefully tended gardens. The sky was clear blue. The air smelled of freshly cut grass and flowers. It was the perfect day for a soccer fest.
Violet felt at ease, walking like this with her brothers and sister. Although they had lost their parents, they had each other, and now, of course, they had Grandfather and Watch.
After their parents died, they ran away because they were afraid of being placed in different homes. They had lived in a boxcar in the woods and entirely took care of themselves—until Grandfather found them, and they learned he was a wonderful person. With him, they could all be together.
Violet was wearing a purple jersey, purple shorts, and lavender socks. She was shy and didn't often raise her hand to speak, but when Coach Olson asked the group of ten-year-old girls what team color they wanted, Violet raised her hand and said purple. Each team also selected the name of a professional team. Violet's team decided to be the purple Wizards.
Getting into the spirit that morning, Violet even laced her cleats with purple shoelaces and tied her pigtails with purple ribbons.
Violet thought about the soccer fest, and parade—and Kayla Thompson. "I wonder if Kayla is excited about being a child mascot in Brazil," she said.
"Kayla has to be excited!" cried Benny. "Why wouldn't she be? Isn't that the whole reason we're having a soccer fest?"
"I don't think she's excited," Violet said. "She doesn't act excited. I understand why. She'll have to go out on the soccer field in front of millions of people."
"I don't think she's shy," Henry said. "She seems very comfortable playing soccer with lots of people watching her."
"That's true," Jessie said. "I think Kayla is just not the type to act excited."
Jessie started to say something more about Kayla, but stopped. She had a vague feeling that Kayla wasn't a very nice person. Other girls in town openly disliked Kayla and even talked badly about her. But, Kayla's family had only recently moved to Greenfield. So nobody really knew Kayla very well. In fact, one girl, Danielle, who was clearly jealous of all the attention Kayla was getting, said Kayla wasn't really a Greenfield girl because she had only lived in the town for six months.
The Alden children arrived at the field to find it decorated with balloons and streamers. The field was large enough for three games to be played at once. Across the street by the playground was another field, also decorated. The streamers—mostly red, white and blue—flapped in the breeze. Each team had a banner with their team color, team name, and the name of each player.
"There's my team!" Benny shouted. "The Earthquakes!"
The players gathered with their teams to the side of the field and did warm-up exercises. First they practiced dribbling, then they practiced passing the ball to each other.
Toward the end of their warm-up exercises, the bleachers filled with spectators. Jessie looked over and saw Grandfather taking a seat in the bleachers. Next to him was Mrs. McGregor, his housekeeper, and several of his friends. Watch lay on the ground nearby, panting because of the heat. This time of year—late August, just after school started—always seemed like the hottest time of year.
Coach Olson blew his whistle and the teams ran to the side of the field. The high school marching band was already in formation.
Benny was jumping with excitement. All around him, small children were jumping and wiggling and good-naturedly pushing each other, eager to get started.
Jessie, watching him, smiled. Her team, all dressed in red, had chosen the name Chicago Fire.
Coach Olson blew his whistle, and the marching band marched onto the field. The drums rolled, rat-a-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat. The crowd cheered and clapped and stamped their feet. The band played "My Country 'Tis of Thee," a song Jessie always found stirring.
Next came the high school majorettes in their sequined uniforms twirling and tossing their batons. The batons glittered in the sun.
The first team to march onto the field was Jessie's team, the Chicago Fire. Leading the team was Kayla, dribbling a ball and performing fancy footwork. She did a fake, pretending she was going to pass the ball and instead stepping on it and pushing it behind her. Next she kicked the ball, causing it to fly straight up, then she bounced it twice on her shoulders. She stepped back and the ball landed directly at her feet and she began dribbling again.
I wish I could do that, Jessie thought.
The audience, many of whom had never seen Kayla's skills, shouted "oooh!" and "aaah!"
"She's just a show-off," said Danielle, one of Jessie's teammates who made no secret of her dislike for Kayla.
"Shh," whispered Jessie.
After the teams circled the field, the marching band played "Yankee Doodle Dandy." When the last of the drums quieted, Coach Olson walked up to a small wooden platform.
He picked up his microphone. He turned it on, and it made a brief screeching sound. He cleared his throat and said, "Welcome! Welcome to the first Greenfield Soccer Fest!" His voice boomed across the field.
Everyone cheered. Jessie looked over at Grandfather and smiled. He smiled back.
"The players have been working hard," said the coach, "practicing and preparing, getting ready for today's grand tournament. Each team will play three games—"
"Stop everything!" came a shout. Mrs. Thompson, Kayla's mother, was marching angrily toward the field, holding her cell phone. "Stop everything right now!"
Everyone fell silent. Jessie could see right away that Mrs. Thompson was angry. Her face was red, her frown deep.
"What is going on?" Coach Olson asked.
Mrs. Thompson marched to the foot of the platform. "Somebody in this town has written a letter to the mascot committee! A letter filled with horrible lies about Kayla. I just received a phone call from the committee. Now she might not get to be mascot!"
Coach Olson hadn't turned off the microphone, so Mrs. Thompson's voice carried over the entire field.
When Coach Olson flipped off the microphone, there was a screech of static, then more silence.
Jessie and the other girls on the red team turned to look at Kayla.
Kayla held perfectly still for a long moment, then buried her face in her hands.CHAPTER 2
A Horrible Letter
Mrs. Thompson walked briskly across the field toward the red team. The coach jumped down from the platform and hurried to catch up to her. Upon reaching the girls, Mrs. Thompson touched Kayla's shoulder to comfort her. Mrs. Thompson didn't look at the other girls. Jessie still felt too astonished to speak, or even move.
"Who would do such a thing?" asked the coach, approaching.
"That's just it!" Mrs. Thompson said. "We don't know! Whoever wrote the letter didn't sign it. But now the mascot committee wants Kayla investigated, just to make sure the things in the letter are not true."
Kayla whirled around and, keeping her face hidden, ran from the soccer field. She ran past her mother, down the street toward her home.
Then everyone, it seemed, started talking at once.
"I wonder what is in the letter!"
"I wonder who wrote it!"
"I wonder what will happen now!"
The coach and Mrs. Thompson stepped aside and whispered together. As they talked, Mrs. Thompson made angry gestures, hitting her fist into her palm and pointing toward the field.
Danielle, standing not far from Jessie but out of Mrs. Thompson's earshot, whispered, "I don't think Kayla deserved to be mascot anyway. The mascot should be someone nice, not someone who just shows off."
"I am so tired of listening to you talk mean about Kayla," another girl told Danielle. "You just wish you could play as well as her."
"If I could play as well as her," said Danielle, twirling her ponytail, "I'd be nicer about it." Danielle had a long ponytail reaching to her waist. Her hair was very thick and blond and she was obviously proud of it.
"Maybe you're the one who wrote the letter," Jennifer said to Danielle.
"I did not," Danielle said, flipping her pony tail over her shoulder.
A few parents from the bleachers went to join Mrs. Thompson and Coach Olson. The parents and Coach Olson talked for several moments. Then Coach Olson strode back to the podium and turned on his microphone.
"We will continue the fest next Saturday!" he announced. "We will have the games then, and the award ceremony. The older players will practice on Tuesday and Wednesday after school, as usual. The younger players—the Earthquakes and Galaxies—can practice tomorrow at one o'clock. We should have this all sorted out by next Saturday."
Nobody in the stands moved. A slight breeze moved in the trees. From the distance came the barking of a dog. Otherwise, all was quiet.
Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny looked for each other, and huddled in a group.
"We need to figure out who wrote the letter," Henry whispered to his sisters and brother.
"Yes," Jessie said. "This isn't fair at all."
"I wonder if we can see the letter!" said Benny. "Do you think Mrs. Thompson has it?"
"She said she got a phone call from the mascot committee," Jessie said. "So the committee probably has it."
"That's too bad," said Henry. "If we could see the letter, we could examine the postmark and see how it was written."
"I wonder who did it," Jessie said. She was looking toward Danielle.
"Do you think it was Danielle?" Violet asked.
"Actually," Jessie said, "it could have been any of the girls on the team, not just the ones who speak up and say they don't like Kayla. The problem is, I don't know anyone on the team who would make up lies."
"Lying is bad," Benny said.
"Lying in a letter to get someone in trouble is even worse," Henry said.
Violet looked over the group of girls wearing red. There were at least a dozen of them. "We've never started out with this many suspects before," she said.
All four of the Alden children stood still for a moment, thinking this over.
"Here comes Grandfather and Mrs. McGregor and Watch!" Benny said. Benny ran toward them. The others followed behind. Watch greeted each of the children with a sniff and wag of his tail. Benny petted Watch's back while Henry scratched the top of Watch's head.
Mr. Alden said, "Well, children, I suppose we should head home."
"I was hoping to win a cone from Igloo Ice Cream," Benny said.
"Maybe next week," Henry said.
They headed down the sidewalk. Mr. Alden took a handkerchief from his pocket and patted his forehead. "It's going to be a hot day today," he said.
"The forecast is calling for high temperatures all week," Mrs. McGregor said.
"What are we going to do today?" Benny asked. "We thought we'd be here all day!"
"Mr. Beck is working at the house," Mrs. McGregor said. "So I suppose we can start by seeing how he's doing." Mr. Beck was the handyman Mr. Alden hired when they needed work done on the house.
"And," Mrs. McGregor said, "it looks to me like you children have a mystery to solve."
Violet sighed deeply. "Poor Kayla. I feel so sorry for her."
"Me, too," Henry said. "I don't know which is worse, not getting to be an international child mascot, or knowing someone wrote a mean letter filled with lies."
"At least it shouldn't be too hard to prove that the letter was filled with the lies," Jessie said. "Then Kayla can still be the mascot."
The first thing Violet noticed as they walked up the front walk to their house was the smell of saw dust. She and the others walked around to the side of the house. Mr. Beck was up on a ladder scooping leaves out of the gutter.
"What are you doing?" Benny asked.
"Routine summer stuff," Mr. Beck said. "I just replaced some rotted boards in the garage. Now I'm cleaning the gutters. Next I'll check the windows. You have to watch out with these old windows in the summer." He squinted up at the roof line. "And it looks like a few roof tiles are loose. I'd better fix those."
"Can I help you?" Benny asked. "I can climb the ladder, too!"
"Better not, Benny," said Mr. Alden. "I think Mr. Beck can manage just fine."
"All right," Benny said. "Let's go have a snack! I can solve mysteries better with a full stomach!"CHAPTER 3
A Not-Quite-So-Horrible Letter
Henry was the first one at the breakfast table the next morning. While waiting for the others, he'd opened the newspaper. Ordinarily Henry read the news on his tablet, but the local Greenfield newspaper had not gone digital yet. Grandfather was happy about that. He said he liked a real newspaper over breakfast and before bed.
"Would you all come look at this?" Henry called. "Amazing!"
Jessie and Violet came running from the kitchen. "What?" Jessie asked.
"Here's a copy of the letter to the Mascot Committee! It says here that the letter was written in the library computer lab. A reporter found a copy in the automatic save file and printed it here!"
"What does the letter say?" Violet asked.
Henry, Violet, and Jessie leaned over the table and read:
Dear Members of the Mascot Committee,
This letter is to tell you all the reasons Kayla Thompson should not be an international mascot. The mascot should be someone who is a team player and who gives soccer a good name. Kayla is not a team player. She hogs the ball. She laughs when other people make mistakes. She shows off. She is not friendly and people don't like her. For all these reasons, she should not be a child mascot.
Concerned citizens of Greenfield, Connecticut.
Excerpted from The Mystery of the Soccer Snitch by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Anthony VanArsdale. Copyright © 2014 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Contents1. The Big Day Arrives,
2. A Horrible Letter,
3. A Not-Quite-So-Horrible Letter,
4. Captain of the Team,
5. Danielle Does Something Mean,
6. A Friend in the Woods,
7. The Mystery of the Golf Balls,
8. The Clue of the Broken Glass,
9. A Confession,
10. Prime Time Soccer,
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