‘Astro Outlaw’ new Ballpark MysteryIn “The Astro Outlaw,” by David A. Kelley, cousins Mike and Kate visit Kate’s dad in Houston. While they are there, they visit NASA’s Johnson Space Center and go to a major league baseball game at the Astros’ ball park for a game between the Astros and the Colorado Rockies.
By: JEAN PATRICK, Republic Book Columnist
There’s a new Ballpark Mystery on the shelves!
In “The Astro Outlaw,” by David A. Kelley, cousins Mike and Kate visit Kate’s dad in Houston. While they are there, they visit NASA’s Johnson Space Center and go to a major league baseball game at the Astros’ ball park for a game between the Astros and the Colorado Rockies.
But when a former astronaut doesn’t show up to throw the opening pitch, Mike and Kate know that something is wrong.
After the first inning, Mike and Kate decide to explore. First, they find the astronaut locked in a closet, bound and gagged. Next they discover a bigger problem. The moon rock that the astronaut brought in a briefcase for his autograph session is gone.
Immediately, Mike and Kate try to solve the mystery. But they have only a few clues — half of a green feather and a description of what might be the thieves’ hideout: “A gas station near the hill, deep in the heart of the Texas.”
Before long, Mike and Kate realize they must use the unique features of the ballpark to solve the mystery.
Author David Kelley is fully aware of his early chapter book audience as he provided concrete, visual clues to solve the mystery. Mark Meyers’ illustrations help readers even more. Although the illustrations don’t solve the mystery, they show the size of the ballpark’s “Home Run Pump” and how feathers are worn in a cowboy hat.
Meanwhile, Kelley includes other details about the ballpark, such as the old-fashioned train on the left field wall and the small hill that is part of centerfield. However, Kelley avoids specific names, choosing the words “the Astros’ ballpark” rather than Minute Maid Park.
Overall, this is an excellent mystery for chapter book readers. Kelley’s can-do characters are imaginative and daring as they solve a mystery in a real-life setting.
“The Astro Outlaw.” By David A. Kelley. Illustrated by Mark Meyers. Ballpark Mysteries #4. Stepping Stone Books/Random House, 2012. 112 pp.