Get Your Head In The Game! Nancy Clancy: Soccer Mania by Jane O'Connor
SOCCER PRACTICE HAD JUST ENDED.
"ALL I WANT IS TO BE MEDIOCRE," NANCY TOLD BREE. MEDIOCRE MEANT BEING AVERAGE, IN THE MIDDLE.
"I'LL NEVER BE GREAT. BUT I HATE BEING TERRIBLE." NANCY SIGHED. "MEDIOCRE. THAT'S MY GOAL."
Nancy has a problem. She is a strikingly bad soccer player. She admits to being a slow runner, and she even has a hard time following the ball on the field.
Her dad has a problem. He loves coaching Nancy's soccer team, the Green Goblins, but his team can't seem to win a game.
Nancy's mom has a problem. Halloween is almost upon them, and little sister Jojo is going through a unfortunate phase for late October. She's terrified of anything vaguely scary--even Nancy's goofy friend Lionel who volunteers to cheer for the Green Goblins in a green fright wig and vampire teeth.
But Nancy's teacher Mr. Dudeney doesn't have a problem with his current language arts unit. His class is having a lot of fun "burying" over-used words like great and awesome--dropping them into the "tombstone" on his desk--and substituting fresh words from the thesaurus (fancy for dictionary of synonyms).
But as October goes by, Bree makes sure Nancy practices after school every day, and although practice doesn't make her perfect, Nancy at last begins to learn to get into position for the play and to keep her head in the game. Bree and Nancy offer to cheer for Lionel at his soccer game, using the pom-poms Mrs. Devine gives them from her memory box, and decide to dress in their cheerleading outfits for Halloween. Nancy invites Jojo to be their junior cheerleader, solving Mom's costume problem.
But Dad's coaching problem continues down to the last game. On the field Nancy is followed by the one thing she's afraid of--bees--even on the bench, and the opposing players are really big--and fast. Nancy really tries--not even to score--but just to make her goal of being mediocre!
SACRE BLEU! THE BALL WAS HEADING RIGHT FOR NANCY. A STREAKS DEFENDER MOVED IN CLOSER TO HER.
OH, NO, YOU DON'T! NANCY THOUGHT. THIS ONE IS MINE! SHE TOOK A STEP BACK, HER EYES LOCKED ON THE BALL. AND THEN...
A BEE WAS BUZZING TOWARD HER. NANCY PANICKED. SHE FORGOT ABOUT THE SOCCER BALL FLYING TOWARD HER! TOO LATE! THE BEE ZAPPED HER IN THE NECK.
NANCY SHOT UP FROM THE PAIN.
ZWOCK! SHE GOT ZAPPED AGAIN IN THE FACE.
IT WAS THE SOCCER BALL!
But Nancy's impromptu header is the assist that sends the ball right to Bree, who passes it to the team's skillful (but not humble) scorer, Grace, who kicks it past the goalie to give the Green Goblins a win at last.
The team, even Grace, agrees that Nancy has met her goal of being mediocre (almost, adds Grace), in Jane O'Connor's just-published-today sixth chapter book in series, Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy, Soccer Mania (Harper, 2015). O'Connor is a master at humorously incorporating new language into plots which engagingly combine childhood concerns and school and family life that are spot-on for early grade readers. It's a superb (fresh and fancy for awesome) book for a classroom read-along for units on the thesaurus and appropriately inspiring for kids who aren't exactly the stars of their own teams. Author O'Connor and illustrator Preiss score at winning chapter books for young readers who definitely won't have mediocre vocabularies.