by Stephanie Green, published 1998
A First Chapter Book
“He had promised Joseph he’d protect him. But he didn’t. They were best friends. Best friends were supposed to stick together. Even if it meant being called names…Even if it ruined the sport you loved more than anything in the world. Even then.”
While searching for a children’s book about soccer for a third grade boy, a reluctant reader, I came across this “first chapter book” in the library. I am often disappointed by first chapter books, with lame plots, and boring language. Not so this one. It delighted me from beginning to end. It places the dilemma of friendship front and center, as we watch our hero, Owen, grow in courage, chapter by chapter.
It’s a perfect children’s book to inspire boys to read, as it gets right into the heart and mind of boys about age eight or nine. The characters feel real enough to be believable, and the setting is certainly familiar… being intimidated by others, being bullied by bigger kids, and in general, wanting to quit rather than face the challenges. It’s terrific to watch Owen grapple with his moods, and have the courage to persevere. His friend Joseph provides a perfect counterbalance…though Joseph actually has most of the struggles, he never wavers or gives up.
The language is easy, probably 2nd to 3rd grade vocabulary. The plot is simple and uncomplicated. It’s also a good children’s book to use when reading aloud with a new reader, especially younger children 6 to 8, to help them imprint reading. This book is one of many about Owen Foote in various settings and roles, making it easy to match a book to a child’s interest.