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Book Reviews - The Secret at Haney Field: A Baseball Mystery

Book line"Two young baseball buffs stumble onto a mysterious occurrence at a minor league baseball stadium in Clark’s (Center Point, 2013, etc.) novel.
"Fans of baseball history will recall the Negro leagues, the alternative leagues in which African-Americans had to play in the shadows of the major leagues because of a ban on black players. Now, 12-year-old April O’Day, a hard-core baseball fan, is in seventh heaven when she lands a job as the local minor league team’s bat girl. Before long, April’s not only retrieving bats, but giving advice to the ballplayers on what size/weight bat to use, when to steal, and other counsel based on her knowledge and observations. One day she sees vague images—“shadow players”—playing on the field after the regular game ends. The team owner, Mr. Haney, sees them too and asks April and her best friend, Darren Plummer, to investigate. However, just as the two friends discover that these players are from the Negro leagues, Haney inexplicably forbids the kids from investigating further and fires them. Realizing something strange is afoot, the kids continue their efforts to uncover the truth. While baseball is a passion of his, Clark has his sights set on the deeper issue of racism in general. The book is a well-written Disney-like story—characters do the right thing, and everything is tied up in a neat little bow. The characters are well-drawn and likable, and Clark obviously knows baseball. The story moves quickly, without unnecessary subplots slowing it down, but it unfortunately lacks real historical perspective. Even just a few paragraphs on the tragedies of players like Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Double-Duty Radcliffe or others—who were forced to display their prodigious talents in subpar circumstances simply because of skin color—may awaken a youngster’s understanding of racism’s inanity. Still, in a kid’s literature market overstuffed with sensitive vampires and magical realms, it’s refreshing to see a story that attempts to be something more.
"A home run, though not a grand slam.."
--Kirkus reviews

Book line"Good evening my wonderful readers, this blog post comes from a content little blogger. After having a long day at work I came home and met up with a very dear friend and had a lovely meal and a big giggle. Now, it’s time to bring you another review, which makes me very excited! I haven’t read a children’s book in a little while so I was very excited to get this one written up and posted to you. In other news I am 700 hits away from 30,000 hits which is crazy thank you to everyone that has looked at my little blog and enjoyed it, I owe it too you all! For now onto the review!
"Twelve-year-old April O’Day’s summer has gotten off to a flying start. As the new bat retriever for the Harpoons, her hometown’s minor league team, she’s fetching bats and doling out great advice to players and coaches alike. In a word, she’s becoming indispensable. But mysterious things are happening at Haney Field, which April and her best friend – and fellow baseball enthusiast – Darren Plummer are determined to uncover. As they quickly learn, this is no ordinary season. In fact, it’s a whole new ball game.
"I love a children’s book; I don’t get the joy of reading them often but any children’s book that can be read and enjoyed by an adult just shows how wonderful it really is. I also don’t read a huge number of books that revolve around sports so I was very interested to see how it would all pan out. Firstly, I loved the mixture of genres; it has a hint of supernatural, the sport element using the baseball a little history and some mystery thrown it right at the end. So, I’ll fill you in on a few details; April O’Day is off for the summer and she has won a contest! One that allows her to be ‘bat-girl’ for a week for the minor league baseball team of her hometown; called, the Harpoons. April actually does a wonderful job and she is asked to continue as the batgirl for the rest of the summer. Sounds idyllic right? Well yes, until her and her friend Danny see a ghost on the field and decide to investigate; then the story really starts!
"I really enjoyed this book; the characters are really well built up and developed throughout the book however I liked how the author kept them as typical twelve year old characters. I am always very impressed when authors can write as younger characters than themselves as it shows a real mature type of writing. I also loved that the hero of the story was a baseball-loving female twelve year old! Its just genius! She is also an incredibly spunky character; she knows baseball inside out and could even teach the coach a thing or two which I know the kids will absolutely love! She’s proud but not arrogant and it makes her incredibly likeable! I liked how neither the mystery nor the supernatural over powered the other and they intertwined nicely throughout. The twists and turns were well balanced with a real understanding of how to keep the suspense building. The plot doesn’t move too quickly but it has pace and it follows smoothly which is the most important part when discussing the pace of a book. I didn’t quite get the end of the mystery but I did enjoy it when it was finally revealed.
"I would definitely recommend this to any child; it’s a wonderfully sweet but interesting book and I know that it would definitely intrigue a child into reading more. I am an absolute sucker for a good mystery and this one is such a rioting maze of clues that will continue to interest a child and maybe one day they will become a book lover just like me. Wonderfully written, wonderfully devised and a really intriguing read!"
~  Lizzy Baldwin of mylittlebookblog

Book line"April is a girl who loves baseball, or rather, a girl who is amazingly smart about baseball. She is smart and funny which makes her likable. But, her knowledge of the sport and its history is what really shines through about her.
"When she discovers that Haney Field once hosted Negro League baseball back in the 1930’s and 40’s, she dives right in—even to the point of discovering a lasting mystery about the field, the owner of the team, and those players so long ago.
"A joy to read for all ages, I would highly recommend this book. April’s nature is so wonderful that even people who are not sports fans will enjoy reading this book."
~  Danielle DeVor of Danielle's review

Book line "I'm always a sucker for well-written children mysteries, and this one not only does an excellent job sending the sleuth through a maze of clues but weaves in an interesting piece of history as well.
"The main character, April, is a young girl with spunk. She's not only interested in baseball, she knows it inside and out. It was fun to watch her help the players out with things even the coach didn't know. (Kids will love that!) Plus, she has a head on her shoulders. She's quick thinking (never arrogant) and notices things when others don't. The perfect, little detective.
"The scenes and settings are well-written and make one feel as if they're on the baseball diamond themselves. The dialogue is fun and realistic, making it clear that the author knows what they're writing about. Baseball lovers will feel at home with every twist and turn.
"Not only is this a well-written, sport mystery, but the author manages to slip in a wonderful taste of history--and not one that most people are aware of. The reader is left with something to think about.
"I can only recommend this to sport lovers, mystery sleuths and children who simply enjoy a good story."
~  Tonja Drecker via Goodreads

Book line "The Secret At Haney Field by R. M. Clark is a great children’s sports mystery. It is a book about baseball with some supernatural, history and mystery thrown own in a very clever way.
"April O’Day is off for the summer and she has won a contest, allowing her to be be bat-girl for a week for her hometown minor league baseball team, the Harpoons. When the players begin improving after listening to April’s advice, she is asked to remain bat-girl for the whole summer. After April sees a ghost at the field and strange things begin happening, her and her friend Danny set out to figure out what is going on.
"The characters are well developed and well-rounded and the children seem to act like a typical twelve year old would. It was very refreshing that the heroine was twelve year old, baseball knowledged, girl.
"The mystery and the supernatural edge are intertwined nicely and add an extra element to the book. The suspense built nicely and there are enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. I was not able to fully solve the mystery on my own, but had to wait for it to be revealed at the end of the book. The writing style flows smoothly and this is an easy read.
"I would recommend this book to any schooled aged child, boy or girl, who enjoy reading mysteries. I would also recommend this book to adults who enjoy the same thing.
"I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank both NetGalley and MB Publishing for allowing me to read such a great book."
~  Mary Brown via Net Galley

Book line "The Secret at Haney Field is a baseball story that held my interest until the final page. It is a story about best friends, April and Darren, two young baseball enthusiasts, who are extremely knowledgeable about the game. They become bat retrievers for their hometown minor-league team and the excitement begins. Not only is this a story about baseball, but it involves a mystery that takes you back in time to the Negro Leagues and a man’s quest to find peace and fix a mistake he once made. I especially liked the added glossary at the beginning of the book. If you are not an expert on baseball terminology, you can still read the book and understand it. There are a few surprises along the way, and the ending leaves you feeling warm and happy inside. A must to be added to my classroom library!" ~  Barbara Corey, 3rd Grade Teacher

Book line "The Secret of Haney Field by R. M. Clark is about a girl named April who is a baseball "savant". April is an expert at all things baseball, from stats to stances, she knows it all. Sometimes even more than the coaches. April wins a contest and becomes the bat retriever for the New Blackburn Harpoons a minor league squad within the Boston Red Sox organization. April is making a name for herself by impressing players, with her in depth knowledge of baseball when she notices something very mysterious.
"There are these shadow players playing on the field after the games. Determined to investigate April discovers a covered up history relating to the Negro leagues and World War II. Determined to solve the mystery of the shadow players, April investigates.
"The mystery weaves American history around a baseball themed story to create an intriguing page turning case. Fans of The Prince of Fenway Park and Dan Gutman's Baseball Card Series will definitely want to read this book."
~  Pat Tierney, Get Kids to Read

Book line "It's summertime and twelve-year-old April O’Day is doing a terrific job as the new bat retriever for the Harpoons, a minor-league baseball team in her small town. She shines in her other roles as well—giving advice to players and coaches alike—but ghosts on the field are pulling her deeper and deeper into a decades-old mystery involving the Negro Leagues.
"April is a great bat retriever, and her skills for sleuthing, as it turns out, are just as terrific. But a mystery as important as this one requires teamwork. That’s where her best friend and fellow baseball geek, Darren Plummer, comes in. With his assistance, and with the help of the shadow ball that April finds after one of their home games that allows her to visit the games from decades ago, new friends will be made and past wrongs will be made right.
"This is a baseball mystery (it's hard to forget: the entire story centers around the game),so naturally, the chapters are filled with enlightening details. A handy glossary introduces the story so that non-baseball fans can easily absorb the jargon used throughout. But even more important than the details and the jargon is the reason for the time-traveling ghost players’ existence in the first place.
"Told in first person by April, her experiences are an inviting read. The discoveries and the reflections of this feisty protagonist, who loves the sport and whose curiosity leads her to investigate the Negro Leagues, baseball history, and even issues of discrimination, are what makes this story so enjoyable: '…the world of baseball changed forever. It was April 15, 1947, and Jackie Robinson shattered the color barrier by taking the field that day with the BrooklynDodgers,' he said. 'We all figured it would just be a matter of time before the best of us made it in as well.' He shook his head. 'Some did, but too many didn’t. Ten years after Jackie, only a dozen or so other players had joined him: Doby, Thompson, Banks . . . the other teams were slow to follow. It was a darn shame.'
"Middle school readers ages 8-12 (especially those with an affection for both baseball and mysteries) will find The Secret at Haney Field an engrossing, involving read. Nothing is predictable, everything is tinged with baseball lore, and middle school readers will be more than drawn in by the combination of alluring storyline and protagonists who are realistic and compelling."
~  Diane Donovan, Senior eBook Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

Book line "The Secret at Haney Field by R.M. Clark is a fun mystery story for eight to twelve-year-olds (or older!) The story focuses on twelve-year-old baseball-mad April O’Day who wins a contest to be the bat retriever for her local minor-league baseball team – the Harpoons – for one exciting week during the summer holidays. April’s wealth of baseball knowledge and her keen eye, her tips and advice improve the players’ performances and she is asked to stay on all summer. One evening after the match, April thinks she sees ghostly figures moving over the darkened baseball field, but surely she’s imagined it? When Mr Haney, owner of the Harpoons, confides that he also sees the figures, April and best friend Darren Plummer start an investigation that reaches back 70 years to reveal a surprising and poignant explanation.
"The Secret at Haney Field is a pleasure to read. April is a likeable and engaging heroine and Darren is good comic relief. The writing is clear and fluid, the dialogue smooth and realistic, and the baseball know-how is very interesting! As an uninitiated, UK-based reader, I found the glossary at the start of the book and the description and history of the sport throughout the story to be fascinating and educational. The mystery at the heart of the book is nicely written and the two young sleuths’ journey to the solution is both exciting and moving. R.M. Clark has created an entertaining but also meaningful book which leaves you with a smile on your face. I really enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to all mystery fans."
~  Julia Hopkinson for Readers’ Favorite

Book line"The Secret at Haney Field is an action/adventure sports mystery for children and preteens written by R.M. Clark. April O'Day is expecting a rather quiet summer as nearly all her friends are going to camp or on holiday. Her summer gets off to an exciting start, however, when she wins an essay contest and becomes the Harpoons' guest bat retriever. April quickly becomes a lot more than that. She's a baseball prodigy and has more practical stats and coaching knowledge than most professionals do. The players are initially amused by the 12-year-old kid who critiques their playing style and suggests the perfect bat for a struggling hitter, but they soon realize April knows her stuff. April also has a mystery to solve: there are spectral, shadowy images that streak along the playing field which only she and Mr. Haney can see.
"R.M. Clark's baseball mystery, The Secret at Haney Field, will royally entertain baseball fans of all ages, and those readers who are not yet into baseball may find themselves thinking about going to a local game after finishing this book. This is one of those books that brings a smile to your face as you begin reading, and that smile just stays glued to your face as you follow April and Darren's adventures at Haney Field. This is such a fabulous read! There's baseball lore and an in-depth look at baseball history, and April is inspirational. Not content with the idea of playing softball as the girl-version of baseball, she channels her love of the game into an encyclopedic and intuitive knowledge of the game. After I finished reading The Secret at Haney Field, I hit the internet to find out why April and young girls who have baseball in their souls should have to settle for softball. The Secret at Haney Field gets you thinking about a lot of things, while you're also having a wonderful time watching April as she critiques and builds up players and solves a mystery all at the same time. This book is great fun and highly recommended."
"I love this book! It made me remember sitting glued to the TV set on sunny Saturday afternoons watching a game instead of being out playing..."
~  Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite

Book line"The smell of fresh-cut grass, hot dogs and roasted peanuts is the same in 2014 as it was in the ball parks of the 1940s, and the love of the game is felt in both eras in The Secret at Haney Field. R.M. Clark's intriguing mystery which has captured the attention of April O'Day, Darren Plummer and owner of the stadium and the Harpoons, crosses over between both eras in baseball history. Before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, there were two leagues; one for whites and one for Negroes. Having been selected as a bat retriever for the Harpoons, April stumbles upon a ghostly sight; there seem to be ghost players involved in a game on the field after dark. She later discovers that the Harpoon's owner, Walter Haney, can see them too and invites her friend Darren to see if he can also see them. While watching the shadow players on the field one night, a shadow ball lands in the bleachers. When April picks up the ball, she is transported back into the 1940s and a bright, sunny day with two teams from the Negro League and tons of fans cheering them on. She later visits one of the shadow games from the dugout and meets one of the players, Oscar "Flash" Henderson, who holds the key to a deeper mystery involving Mister Haney.
"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. The understanding of the game is portrayed in a twelve-year-old whose passion for it is beyond compare. As she and Darren peel back the different layers of the mystery, the reader is present in a very meaningful way. The intrigue, the game, the history and the righting of past wrongs are all felt on a deep level. 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