________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 20 . . . . June 10, 2005


Foul Play. (Sports Stories, 79).

Beverly Scudamore.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2005.
106 pp., pbk. & cl., $8.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55028-874-1 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55028-875-X (cl.).

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

*** /4


"Did the coach call you about the tournament?" Alison asked.

"Yep," Emily replied. "I can't wait. We have a good chance of winning. Our only real competition is the blue team. When they have a full team, they're tough to beat."

"We'll win," Alison said, in a smug tone. "Guaranteed."

"How can you be so confident" Emily said.

"Trust me. I have a plan."

My heart started to drum. I held my breath so I could catch every word, but Alison changed the subject.

"The stain's almost gone. Can you grab me some paper towels? I'm soaking wet."

"What kind of plan?" Emily insisted.

Yeah, spit it out, I thought, leaning forward.

The books in the "Sports Stories" series for reluctant readers tend to link a personal problem with an adolescent's participation in a sport. In Foul Play, Remi O'Sullivan is playing forward or striker for the blue team in a recreational soccer league for 12 and 13-year-old girls. The current big excitement in Remi's life is a forthcoming soccer tournament which will take place on the first day of summer break, three weeks hence. The blue team's chief competition is the red team on which Remi's former best friend, Alison Andrews, is a player. When Remi accidentally overhears a conversation involving Alison (see the excerpt above), she becomes concerned that Alison is planning to do something to sabotage the blue team's chances of winning the tournament. Events which follow appear to substantiate Remi's concern as blue teammate Nina Patel sprains her ankle from a fall in a freshly dug hole in the team's practice field, and later, when more holes appear, Remi observes Alison nearby, apparently carrying a trowel. Remi also sees Alison giving money to Shani, another blue team player, and, when Shanni then elects to participate in the Skate Jam which occurs on the same day as the soccer tournament, Remi is convinced that Alison had bribed Shanni to bypass the tournament. On tournament day, the blue and red teams advance to meet in the final game of the tournament, and again Remi overhears a conversation involving Alison, one in which Alison says, "My dad is bringing our secret weapon." Remi decides that, if Alison is going to engage in foul play, then she will do so also, and she modifies the game schedule so that the red team will arrive late for the championship game and be disqualified. However, before the final game begins, Remi discovers that the conclusions she had drawn were all wrong and that each of the happenings of Alison's supposed wrongdoing actually had a different explanation, one that did not make Alison the villain. Remi confesses her own misdeed involving the alteration of the final game's start time, and, as a result, Remi's blue team is disqualified, and she is left facing a league ban from playing soccer for the rest of the season.

     Scudamore is particularly effective at reflecting how most young adolescents fail to do any perception checking concerning either other people's behaviours or their spoken words. Instead, they simply draw conclusions based on what they have apparently seen or heard and then act on those conclusions. What initially appears to be a subplot involving Lucas Baxter, Remi's science geek classmate who is studying worms for a science competition, eventually links with Remi's misinterpretations of events. Although Remi is punished for her real act of foul play, there is some degree of happiness for her at the book's conclusion as she and Alison make up after each acknowledges her own personal role in their friendship's earlier dissolution.


Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in literature for adolescents at the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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