There's nothing eight-year-old twins Zach and Zoe Walker love more than playing sports and solving mysteries. And when those two worlds collide . . . well, it doesn't get any better than that.
In their third mystery, Zach and Zoe discover their recess football has been completely deflated, leaving them without a ball to play with. But who's behind it? By searching for clues around the school, Zach and Zoe uncover the truth behind the damaged ball, and learn the importance of friendship, inclusion, and being conscious of other people's feelings. Ending with a big Walker Family Thanksgiving Turkey Bowl game, The Football Fiasco is the perfect fall chapter book!
In the opening installments of the Zach and Zoe Mysteries, bestselling author Mike Lupica begins a series for a new and younger audience, introducing readers to a sports-loving detective duo who can swing for the fences and catch the culprit in one fell swoop. With a recipe equal parts sports and mystery, the Zach and Zoe Mysteries break fresh ground for an author who has been called the greatest sportswriter for kids.
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Read an Excerpt
Zach and Zoe Walker were getting ready for one of their favorite parts of the school day at Middletown Elementary:
The touch football game they played with some of their classmates at recess.
Not everybody chose to play football at recess. Some of the other kids played basketball. Some kicked a soccer ball around. Some played on the jungle gym, or played freeze tag.
But Zach and Zoe were even more excited to play football than usual today, because it was the Friday before Thanksgiving. That meant it was almost time for the big Walker family football game they called the Turkey Bowl, before they sat down for Thanksgiving dinner.
Now it was just a few days before Thanksgiving break, and Zach and Zoe couldn’t wait to get outside and practice for the big game.
“Remember how last year’s Turkey Bowl ended?” Zach said to his twin sister.
“How could I forget?” she said. “You’re the one who keeps reminding me that Grandpa Richie threw you the game-winning pass!”
“The only person happier than me last year was Grandpa Richie,” Zach said.
“He’s the one who came up with the idea of the game in the first place,” Zoe said. “It’s why he always has more fun than anybody in our family.”
That day, Zach was starting off as quarterback for one of the teams. He had the best arm in their grade. But their friends Malik and Mateo got to play quarterback, too. So did Kari and Zoe. The teams were different every day. The only thing that never changed was their sad-looking old ball. It had been around even before Zach and Zoe started elementary school.
The ball really wasn’t much to look at. But they were used to it by now, almost as if it were an old friend. It had “NFL,” written on the side, for National Football League. It also said “Junior Touchdown.” The laces were worn down, and the seams were loose, but it was still their ball.
Every time they played with it, Lily would make fun of the ball, telling them it should have “Senior” written on it instead of “Junior,” because it looked older than all of them put together. She was always complaining that it was time for the school to get them a new one. But it was all they had. To Zach and Zoe, the condition of the ball didn’t matter, as long as they could use it to play.
There were eight players in all, four to a side. It was Zach and Zoe’s turn to pick teams. Zach chose Malik first, and then Kari and Brian. Zoe took Mateo and Lily and finally a new boy in their class this year, Jimmy Evans. Jimmy was a small, thin boy who wore glasses. He didn’t say much, but he always joined them for recess football.
The most important rule they had came from Zach and Zoe’s dad. It was something he always told them about sports.
“Have fun! If you don’t enjoy yourselves, then sports are about as much fun as cleaning your room.”
They played nonstop for the next twenty minutes of recess. Zoe’s team ended up with the ball in the last drive of a tie game. By then, she was playing quarterback. On the second-to-last play, she’d thrown the ball to Jimmy, just because she couldn’t remember anybody throwing it to him the whole game. Jimmy was open, but he took his eyes off the ball at the last second and dropped it.
All of a sudden, the bell sounded for the end of recess. They had time for one last play. Malik broke away from Zach, and Zoe threw him a touchdown pass that won the game for their team.
Even though Zach was on the other team, he was the first to run up to his sister for their special high-five. The one that began with them bumping elbows and hips and then finally jumping into the air. It was the same today as in any game they played, whether they were teammates or not.
As much as they both loved to compete, they loved each other more. No matter who won or lost, nothing ever beat that.
As they walked back inside, Zoe thought that Jimmy looked a little sad, even though their team had won.
She walked up alongside him. “Why do you look so sad?” Zoe asked. “We won!”
“Nobody ever throws me the ball,” he said. “And when you finally did today, I dropped it.”
“I dropped one a few plays before that,” Zoe said. “It happens to everybody. Zach’s really good at football, and even he dropped a couple today. It’s all part of the game.”
She smiled at him, suddenly wanting to cheer him up.
“The best thing about recess is that there’s another game tomorrow,” she said.
“Maybe you’re right,” Jimmy said, but he didn’t sound convinced. Then he walked ahead of her into the school building.
Zach had been walking behind with Malik and Mateo, but he caught up with Zoe as she was walking through the door.
“You looked pretty good throwing that ball around today,” Zach said.
“Maybe I should be one of the starting quarterbacks in the Turkey Bowl,” she said.
“I thought you liked being a wide receiver better.”
“Maybe I was just trying to fake you out the way I did a couple of times in the game today,” Zoe said, winking.
“Or maybe you were just trying to be mysterious,” Zach said, “as usual.”
Anybody who knew Zoe Walker knew how much she loved a good mystery. Any kind of mystery.
But neither she nor her brother knew that the latest mystery was about to start.