Owen Foote knows that soccer is the greatest sport in the world. He's so excited about being old enough to join the town soccer league that he has talked his best friend, Joseph, into signing up too. But Joseph turns out to be terrible at soccer. That's not the only thing troubling Owen: the other kids on his team, the Aliens, seem to be bigger and older and better at soccer than he is, and at least one of them is mean. But Owen isn't about to give up his best friend or his favorite sport without a struggle. Readers will cheer for Owen as he and Joseph face new challenges on and off the field and come up winners.
The good-natured star of Greene's debut novel, Owen Foote, Second Grade Strongman, returns, now old enough to play in the big-time town soccer league. Even though his best friend, Joseph, has never played soccer before and can't run or kick, Owen has talked him into signing up for the team. However, when Walter, the team bully, ridicules Joseph's abilities in front of the other players, Owen denies he's Joseph's friend. Thus Greene sets the field for what is bound to be an about-face on Owen's part, and the earnest boy obliges. He courageously speaks out against the coach's plan to divide the team into two groups based on skill (which would separate him from Joseph) and delivers a much-deserved comeuppance to Walter (even though it entails a soccer maneuver of questionable legality). Making her tale even sunnier, Greene finds a comfortable position for the bumbling Joseph, who shines playing in goal. Owen's close rapport with his parents and older sister adds extra warmth to this accessible novel, whose brief sentences, limited vocabulary and cheery drawings make it a good pick for those ready to graduate from picture books. Imparted with humor, the author's message about the importance of being a true friend will escape no youngster. Ages 6-8. (Mar.)