Friday, June 06, 2014

Making Goals: Soccer on Sunday (Magic Tree House #52) by Mary Pope Osbourne

"I wonder where we'll go today?" said Jack.
Annie began to speak in a dramatic voice, like a TV announcer."What amazing person will Jack and Annie meet today?"
Jack laughed and shook his head.
"Our lives are kind of crazy," said Annie.
"You think?" said Jack.
School's out and Jack and Annie could be sleeping late, but a familiar flash at her window had just aroused Annie.  Tiptoeing into Jack's room in the pre-dawn gloom, she shook him out of a dream,

"We have to go," she said.  "It's back."

Against the graying sky they find the Magic Tree House high  in the tall oak in the woods, with a summons from Merlin:
Now you must learn the fourth secret of greatness from one of the finest athletes of all time, Pele' the Great.
With the note they find two tickets to the final World Cup game in Mexico in 1970, along with the tiny bottle of the magic Mist of Avalon that can grant them one hour of great skill at whatever they choose, and the Ring of Truth.  Jack makes the wish and they spin back through years to the final match in Mexico City.

Jack and Annie are surprised to find that they emerge in their same shorts and tees.  It seems those haven't changed much since 1970. They also find that their pockets are full of pesos and they set out to navigate the subways and trams of the huge Mexican capital to Aztec Stadium where the final game between Brazil and Italy is to be played.  The crowds are overwhelming for the two kids from Frog Creek, Pennsylvania,  but they meet up with a big city boy named Roberto, also on his way to the match, with his birthday ticket and with his own mission--to remember everything and hurry home to tell his eight brothers and sisters everything that Pele' does. With Roberto steering them from subway to subway to trolley, they arrive with only a few minutes to spare before the game. Jack and Annie have great seats in the second row, but Roberto's seat is near to top of the stadium, barely visible.  As he bids them farewell, Jack and Annie have an idea.
"Everybody says it's the game of a lifetime," Jack said.

"Roberto! We have to trade seats," said Annie. "Because it's your birthday. If you have a good seat, you can tell our brothers and sisters and your parents all about it."

It is an amazing game, but in the huge crowd of fans around the victorious Pele' and his team, Jack and Annie can find no way to speak to the great player and learn his secret of greatness. Disappointed, they let Roberto show them the way to a bus stop near his aunt's house to catch a less-crowded ride back downtown. The three meet up with  a group of Roberto's friends playing "futbol" who invite them to join the game. When Jack and Annie and Roberto admit to each other that they are enthusiastic, but not very good players,  Jack decides that they might as well use the Mist of Avalon to make them great players for a little while. And there, as they celebrate on that muddy field in the warm drizzle of Mexico City, Annie and Jack discover the last secret of greatness, when Roberto exults "Enthusiasm is everything!" and sets the Ring of Truth to glowing brightly.

Mary Pope Osborne's latest Magic Tree House book, Magic Tree House #52: Soccer on Sunday (A Stepping Stone Book(TM)) (Random House, 2014), completes Annie and Jack's Merlin Mission to discover the secrets of greatness--humility, hard work, purpose, and enthusiasm. Author Osborne obviously has shown those qualities in accomplishing fifty-two installments in this best-selling series of beginning chapter books which so successfully combine history, biography, and geography with fantasy adventure.

Veteran artist Sal Murdocca has been along for the whole ride, bringing Pope's adventuring brother and sister to life in his trademark illustrations for the many, many readers who have transitioned to independent reading through this blockbuster series. Pair this one with its nonfiction companion book, Magic Tree House Fact Tracker #29: Soccer: A Nonfiction Companion to Magic Tree House #52: Soccer on Sunday (A Stepping Stone Book(TM)) (Random House, 2014).

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