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The Secret at Haney Field: A Baseball Mystery Paperback – September 9, 2014
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"... As deeply moving as Field of Dreams, R.M. Clark has created a very memorable story that gives honor to those who played in the Negro league in that bygone age. The Secret at Haney Field captures your heart in a childlike way that recalls the simplicity of the game...Inspiring, intriguing and insightful, The Secret at Haney Field will place you in both eras of the game and deliver not only a wonderfully suspenseful mystery, but reveal a rich history as well." ~ Bil Howard for Readers' Favorite
". . . a well-written Disney-like story. . . . The characters are well-drawn and likable, and Clark obviously knows baseball. . . . A home run. . . ." - Kirkus Reviews
From the Inside Flap
April O'Day, a spunky twelve-year-old, has a grand-slam summer acting
as the bat retriever for her hometown's minor-league baseball team and, along with
her best friend Darren Plummer, solving a mystery on the field dating back to the
days of the Negro Leagues
Top customer reviews
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This book effectively combines the author's obvious knowledge of the baseball game's strategies, history and excitement. Along the way, topics like lying, deception, love, belonging and racial prejudice are combined to make an interesting and engaging story. For those who know nothing about baseball a glossary of terms is included. The cool thing about this book is that the hero is a girl who acts as the 'batboy' (bat retreiver) who proves to the Harpoons (the local minor league team) that she knows more about baseball than the team manager, and gains players respect for her cunning and wisdom. She coaches the pitcher and batters; no mean feat for an 11 year old who loves the game.
Along the way she discovers that she can see ghost players running the bases from the old Negro League, and even talk to them. The owner of the team tries to cover up leaving the negro players on the team off a team plaque dedicated to the players who were killed fighting in the war when it was dedicated by the town, because they were Negro. The owner suffered guilt for decades over that. April, the hero, eventually confronts the owner about this racism, and everything turns our okay in the end.
I can recommend this book for 5-8th graders. It is a heart warming story of an intelligent, wise, considerate girl who makes the world a better place while helping her family, friends and various adults in a clever way.
Note that I don't really do stars. To me a book is either worth reading or it isn't. I can't rate it three-fifths worth reading! The only reason I've relented and started putting stars up there is to credit the good ones, which were being unfairly uncredited. So, all you'll ever see from me is a five-star or a one-star (since no stars isn't a rating, unfortunately).
I rated this book WORTHY!
WARNING! MAY CONTAIN UNHIDDEN SPOILERS! PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!
What could be more appropriate in the depths of winter than a book about baseball?! This is actually the first fiction I've ever read that features baseball at its core. For those who need it, it features a nice glossary at the beginning, which was actually useful to me. I'm not a huge sports fan! And a huge sports fan might be what you have to be to properly enjoy this: note that it's really heavy into baseball terminology and trivia.
That said, I can tell you that I really liked the story and consider it a worthy read. It was inventive, atmospheric, well-written, and proves single-handedly that it's possible to write a first person PoV novel that's not vomit-inducing! Kudos for that!
April O'Day is obsessed with baseball. Unhealthily so, I'd say, but let's let that slide right on by. She's also a bit too much of a Mary Sue, but other than that, she's smart, helpful, confident, adventurous, and she has integrity and guts. That's not bad at all for a female protagonist, and a heck of a lot better than you get in your typical YA novel. Maybe that's because this is middle-grade and not YA? Middle grade females seem to have a heck of a lot more going for them than ever do females in YA. Hey, why is that?
April's summer thrill is that she gets to be bat-girl(!) for a week at the local minor league team - the Harpoons (a suitably phallic name for a sports team, let's face it). She does so well that she is allowed to stay on after her volunteer week is over. She proves her worth not just by doing her assigned job well, but also by giving tips to the players on their running, their swinging, and their throwing, and the team starts doing really well.
So far, so good, but one night when she's delayed leaving, and when the stadium lights go off, April thinks she sees shadows running bases - not real people, but transparent shadows. Maybe it's just her imagination. But she keeps seeing them. Her friend Darren sees them. So, too, does the owner, Mr Haney, who takes a shine to April and invites her to his owner's box. After a discussion, he authorizes her to find out all she can about the shadows.
It's pretty obvious what they are, but maybe middle-graders will take longer to figure out out. What's not so obvious is why they're haunting Haney Field. Are they connected with that large object which Haney keeps hidden away under the stadium? Are they connected with names missing from a plaque? Why does Haney turn hostile when he learns what those names are? Are they connected with events from seventy years ago? And why are they haunting Haney's field?
I really liked this story, despite some minor irritations. It told a good tale and although it was a bit too sugary, it had a good ending. I'm sure middle-graders will love it.
This ARC was provided by NetGalley and MB Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
I can certainly understand why April won! An essay on using sabermetrics! This is a fun angle, reading the strategies and tricks of reading a baseball field. April knows her stats about the players and pays attention to the tiny details. It's a great read and very encouraging for kids. I love how the players pay attention to her, respect her. Not to worry, though, she's still a kid with the mischief that kids get up to. It's just a little more focused than most, lol.
My only big quibble is that the players tolerate April's advice at the start. She's just a kid, they don't know her, and adults don't normally see kids as experts. I wish Clark had given us a reason why they're accepting it. Same goes for Haney. He's gotta be desperate if knowing a twelve-year-old seeing the same thing he is makes him feel better!
It's not 'til well into the story that we learn what the mystery is, and it's a sad state for where we were as a country. We've made progress down the years, but we're still a work-in-progress. I think that old scoreboard is Haney's dirty secret. A guilt trip he hides but wants to ease up on.
"It's sad that we have to create laws to make people do the right thing."
Mr. Haney is terrified that he's losing his mind, and it's a big part of his dirty secret. Being a kid, April has already been exploring the grounds, and she's seen the same shadows he has and has more questions. She'll have even more once she "time travels" and investigates deeper. She does some nice work detecting along with unexpected help from her dad.
There's a short bit on the expectations when Jackie Robinson made it into the big leagues, and the disappointment that followed. There's also a useful glossary at the start for those of us not in the know about baseball terms *points finger at self — although I was surprised at how much I did know*.
This is a great cozy read with some great characters and several heck-of-a-twisty endings. Two of the characters have their come-to-Jesus moments and Clark brings them right in the end. You won't regret this for your kids! Heck, I don't even like baseball, and I loved this!
April has just won an essay contest that will allow her to be the bat retriever for the Harpoons! For a whole week!!
It’s the question at the end of the week that will make April’s entire summer: will she come back?
But the real question is: can she see those shadows out on the field?
April O'Day is twelve years old and fascinated by baseball stats. I think she could be a coach now! Danny is her disabled father, who used to be a minor leaguer himself. Her parents are separated and sharing joint custody. Her mother, Debby, is astraphobic (afraid of storms) and works in the meteorology department at a TV station.
Darren Plummer is April's best friend and just as in love with baseball as she is. He's also an artist with an excellent memory for their logos.
The Harpoons are…
…a minor-league Class A baseball team in New Blackburn. The home field is Haney Field named for the team's owner, Mr. Walter Haney. Peg is his wife although she doesn't appear in this, but two of their great-grandchildren do: Walter and Cassandra. Manny is Mr. Haney's driver. Beth Harrelson is director of promotions and responsible for April while she's there. Don "Skip" Smiley is the manager who's retired from his own major league career. Ben Meeks is one of the coaches. Joe Clemmons is the head groundskeeper at Haney Field.
Juan Santiago is a new left fielder; Carl "Cannon" Caswell is the first baseman; Roscoe Barnwell is their speedy center fielder; Kyle Bonner is the newer left fielder; and, Jimmy "Moose" Baxter is a pitcher.
Some of their opponents are…
…the Springfield Braves and the Montpelier Mountaineers.
The Negro Leagues were…
…formed due to the racism of whites who refused to be around black people. And man, did the baseball teams back then miss out! Oscar "Flash" Henderson III was a star for the Blue Barons along with Lamont Porter and Henry Calloway, who were playing against the Grays. Marvin Henderson is Flash's great-nephew; Sheila is his wife. They're planning on naming the baby Oscar Henderson IV.
Mr. David Koh is a retired Asian man who tours the memories of his past and teaches Danny a lesson.
Marcus "Mayhem" Mayfield was in the major leagues back in the 1950s and played part of a season for the New York Giants. He also played in the Negro Leagues. Olivia Coiner is the granddaughter who takes care of him now. Red Cantwell was city council president back in 1963. Evelyn is today's city municipal planner.
Jim Fogel was a scout back in the 1960s and '70s and has a wealth of knowledge.
Sabermetrics is a science about baseball records, math, and statistics. Barnstormers were teams who were not in a league but played teams all over the country.
The cover is bright in a fan array of blues radiating out from a baseball resting above crossed bats resting on blades of grass. A bright pink banner showcasing the title arcs across the top. I like the crossed bats. It feels like the meeting of two sides, a resolution of a hateful iniquity with this positive outcome. Let's play ball!
The title says it like it is. It’s The Guilty Secret at Haney Field that has the team owner freaking out.
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