Author R. M. Clark's new novel is a baseball-centered middle-grade mystery, featuring spunky twelve-year-old protagonist April O'Day. As the daughter of a former minor-leaguer, she really knows baseball. And when she wins the opportunity to be a bat retriever for one week with her hometown's minor league team, she proves it, transforming her seven-day dream job into a summer-long adventure of runs, hits, errors . . . and a mystery to solve.
Baseball-playing shadows are on the field, which only she, her friend Darren, and the team's owner, Mr. Haney, can see. And when April finds one of their shadow balls in the stands, the three are able to witness a 1940s Negro Leagues game.
Who are these players—especially the one they call Flash, a lightning-fast base runner? And why are they at Haney Field? Can Marcus "Mayhem" Mayfield, a veteran of the Negro Leagues as well as the majors, help them solve this mystery? And as facts come into focus, will Mr. Haney try to keep an event from the 1960s hidden under the grandstands?
". . . a well-written Disney-like story. . . . The characters are well-drawn and likable, and Clark obviously knows baseball. . . . A home run. . . ."
From Tonja Drecker on Goodreads
August 18, 2014
5 of 5 stars
"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!)"
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.
I recieved a free copy of this in exchange for an honest review.
From April Hanks on Goodreads:
"What's also awesome about this book is that it's not only about perseverence (again, a popular theme), but also honor, racism, and friendship."
I've read one of this author's two other books (and loved it), and reading this book only makes me want to go out and buy the one I have yet to read.
April is an engaging, quick-witted, very likeable character who stumbles into what turns out to be an equally engaging mystery. This book is for 8- to 12-year-olds, and if I ever do get around to having a child, I'll be putting this in his/her bookshelf. It's also a refreshing departure from what is currently popular in children's or YA novels, in that our heroine's only 'special' talent is her wits — no real supernatural ability (to expand on this would involve a spoiler), no gifts from the gods — and this makes her even more likeable and relatable to children (and adults like myself).
What's also awesome about this book is that it's not only about perseverence (again, a popular theme), but also honor, racism, and friendship.
A quick, enjoyable read, this novel is highly recommended.
Children's Bookwatch: July 2014
James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Diane Donovan, Editor
Midwest Book Review
"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 make this story so enjoyable. . . ."
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 Brooklyn Dodgers," 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.
Reviewed by Julia Hopkinson for Readers’ Favorite
Rating: 5 stars
"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!"
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.
Reviewed by Bil Howard for Readers Favorite
Rating: 5 stars
"As deeply moving as Field of Dreams . . ."
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.
Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite
Rating: 5 stars
"R.M. Clark's baseball mystery . . . will royally entertain baseball fans of all ages. . . . This book is great fun and highly recommended."
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.
Heather Fischer (Educator)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
"I will definitely be purchasing this book for my fourth grade classroom . . ."
This is a great mystery that would intrigue sports lovers, history lovers, and even has some aspect of science fiction. This is a great companion title for books such as Teammates and We are the Ship. This would be a good fictional book for a social studies curriculum, has some historical references to the Negro Leagues, Jackie Robinson, and Korean War. I enjoy the character development, although I wish it would have included more depth to the characters. I will definitely be purchasing this book for my fourth grade classroom and encouraging some reluctant readers who may have an interest in baseball.
Sara Churchill (Librarian)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
"This will definitely go on my to-order list for next year!"
Lizzy Baldwin of Mylittlebookblog
"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!"
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Danielle DeVor of Danielle's Review
"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."
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Barbara Corey, Third-Grade Teacher
"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!"
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Pat Tierney, Get Kids to Read
"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."
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