________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 12 . . . . February 6, 2009

cover Maverick Mania. (Orca Sports).

Sigmund Brouwer.
Victoria, BC: Orca Books, 2008.
163 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-55469-047-3.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

**½ /4


I’m not tall. I’m not short. I wear the kind of clothes that make me look like part of a crowd. I make everybody call me Matt, but my real name is Teague, which is Celtic and means “man of poetry.” Just so you get a picture of what I’ve had to put up with my entire life, there is not a single Celtic person in either my mom’s or my dad’s entire family history; they just liked the name because it was different. I don’t like different. My goal in life, besides playing in the national championship game, is to be normal—unlike the rest of my family.

Sixteen-year-old, Matt Carr wishes that his family “could be more like everyone else’s.” His father is a grade-six science teacher with a menagerie of pets in his classroom. His mother is an eccentric police dispatcher and “mystery freak” who dreams of being a detective. His 14-year-old sister, Leontine, has orange-and-purple hair and is an “Internet junkie.” Matt and his family live in a small city in Arizona. “Nothing ever happens here,” Matt says of Lake Havasu City. Matt plays sweeper for the Thurber Mavericks High School soccer team. The events of Sigmund Brouwer’s Maverick Mania revolve around a high school spring break round-robin soccer tournament, with the winning team granted an opportunity to compete in a televised national competition. The problem for the Mavericks is that the team’s main scorer, Caleb Riggins, does not show up for the games. Given that Caleb has not informed his teammates or coach of his unavailability, Caleb’s absence makes little sense as “soccer is his whole life.” When Matt and another teammate, Steve, decide to visit Caleb, they unwittingly stumble into far more trouble than they ever imagined was possible.

    Despite being part of Orca Book’s “Orca Sports” series of books, Maverick Mania is not just a soccer story. Indeed, it is something of an eclectic mix of sports story, mystery novel and crime drama. Told in the first person from Matt’s perspective, the book is 163 pages in length and consists of 26 short chapters.

    I have difficulty with children’s books and movies in which children are portrayed as being smarter and more able to uncover a mystery than are the police. I also have difficulty accepting stories in which merciless killers are also careless killers who leave just enough “wriggle room” for the intended child victims to escape their peril. Such things do not ring true and, despite the fact that the narrative is sprinkled with humour, as contemporary realistic fiction, the story stumbles along in the wake of sloppy police work and a callous—but not callous enough—killer.

    The explanation at the end of the book is rushed. It reads like the add-on that it is—something to tidy up loose ends. Brouwer tells, rather than shows, too much in the final couple of chapters. As such, the book ends conveniently, but not convincingly.

    Despite these reservations—and they are significant—there is an audience that will enjoy Maverick Mania and find the book an engaging read. The insertion of the mystery and crime components of the book broadens the story’s appeal. One does not need to be a sport enthusiast or a soccer fan to enjoy Maverick Mania. Many upper elementary and middle school readers with an interest in crime and mystery will also enjoy Brouwer’s work. As with other books of this ilk, there is no doubt the book will garner support and, in some quarters, will be received with enthusiasm. Brouwer’s writing is likely to appeal to boys who, in some cases, might otherwise choose to do little or no reading. The short, action-packed chapters, the tongue-in-cheek humour, the soccer game descriptions, and the general absence of thick, descriptive passages, will be to the liking of many pre-teen boys.

Recommended with reservations.

Gregory Bryan is a sports enthusiast who teaches children’s literature at the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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