Fred Bowen

Children's sports author and Washington Post/KidsPost sports columnist

*Winner, Land of Enchantment (NM) Children's Book Award 2015-2016

*Nominee, Maud Hart Lovelace (MN) Children's Book Award 2015-2016

*Nominee, Kansas City (MO) Great Kids Can Read 2015-2016

* Nominee, Massachusetts Children's Book Award 2013-2014


PBS Reading Rockets

Is a "perfect game" possible? Rarely. Can a boy who is striving to pitch a no-hit, no walks, batters-up-batters-down game learn anything from a Special Olympics Unified Sports team? You bet.
And so can I from reading a new novel by Fred Bowen. In Perfect Game (Peachtree), Isaac has to rethink his idea of perfection when he works with a group of kids and one boy in particular.
It's a baseball story for sure, with a fast-paced plot. But more. In an era where differences often lead to misunderstandings, it's a timely book, too. It's harder to dislike other people when you get to know them, when there's a chance to walk the proverbial mile in another's shoes.
This book is the kind of vicarious experience for both typical and special kids (I'd say 8 or 9 years old, though older kids will find something, too). It's an ideal book for adults and children to share. It may lead to some thoughtful discussion about what's important, how other people feel — and, of course, baseball. After all, it is the season!

Teacher of the Year
Greater Washington Reading Council

Once again Bowen has delivered a must read for upper elementary and middle school. Students saw this on my desk before I read it and I had to get in the back of the line and wait my turn!

I like this one for several reasons. First, I always learn a lot of stuff from Bowen's books. This time it was about the fragile X syndrome, the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign and stats about a perfect game. Woven into this interesting baseball story, Bowen brings likeable, believeable characters dealing with real adolescent problems and accomplishments.

You might look at it and think it's a "boy" book, but there is always a strong female character to give the story balance. Sports book, yes, but so much more.

I highly recommend this book to parents looking for books to hook their kids, teachers who want a good solid read and students who want a good story. I always look forward to "The Real Story" at the end of Bowen's books. The pairing of fiction and nonfiction makes the book even more of a treat.

Author of many books
on children's literature

[Perfect Game] will intrigue those who love sports stories — and even though many will view this as a "boy" book there is a strong female character that serves to balance the gender issue; and while Bowen's books do attract male readers, female readers enjoy his books equally. The "Real Story," a chapter always appended at the end of the book, gives readers a non-fiction tie to the information weaved into the story.

Children's Literature Expert
Review posted on
5 stars (out of 5)

An important look at what makes a "perfect" game in the eyes of a very competitive pitcher with a demanding and perfectionist dad. Isaac really wants to pitch a perfect game and is so driven that he forgets that it is a team win that counts but his wise coach gets him involved with a very unique group of players, part of a Special Olympics United Sports basketball team and he learns from them the value of sticking with the game and making your best effort. There are some important insights here, nicely encased in a story about a very likable boy.

Middle School Teacher Librarian
and blogger of kids's books

5 (out of 5) stars: Overall rating
5 (out of 5)stars: Plot/​Characters/​Writing Style

As with all of Fred Bowen's books, this had lots of details about games and tables ...that my readers love. Interwoven with this is the more serious topic of Isaac's unrealistic drive and his slow acceptance of the players on the Special Olympics team. This portrayal is almost painfully realistic-- as often as teachers and parents tell children not to use the term "retard", they still do. Seeing Isaac use this term out of ignorance and then learn why it is hurtful is more helpful than all the lectures adults can deliver. Bowen also writes strong female characters, and includes helpful information at the end of the book both about historical perfect games, Fragile X syndrome, and the Special Olympics.

Good Reading Guide

A “perfect” read for sports buffs. Fred Bowen combines likeable characters, realistic dialogue, and believable character growth with plenty of sports details, statistics, and lingo. Isaac’s personal development and understanding of the players on the Special Olympics team is impressive and rewarding.
Reviewed by Kathleen Pacious

Washington Parent
A combination of fast-paced action, sports savvy young characters and authentic situations makes this novel a winner. Look, too, for Bowen's weekly sports column, The Score, in the KidsPost section of the Washington Post.

Special Olympics Athlete

While this book is primarily intended for children, I recommend this book for everyone because there are just as many adults as there are kids who don’t understand the difficulties that people with intellectual disabilities go through on a day to day basis. This book can motivate people of all ages to start and/​or join a Unified Sports program at their school or in their community. The lesson that this book teaches us is that while some athletes have high expectations, it’s important to step back every now and then to see athletes just having fun and not worrying whether they win or lose, but making sure they have fun.

Support Services Coordinator
National Fragile X Foundation

Thank you Fred Bowen for including a young man with fragile X syndrome in your book. There are still many people who have never heard of the condition, and this is a great way to raise awareness. When one child in the book uses the “R” word to describe one of the students with a disability, the other children let him know that it is not okay. Mr. Bowen has a reference to the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign for more information. He also includes a description of the history and value of Special Olympics and I hope this encourages others to join as “partners.” And then there is always The Real Story behind Perfect Games in baseball. Fascinating!

Perfect Game

Available in hardback, paperback and ebook.

"Perfect Game is about the important lessons sports can teach: How to play for the love of the game."

-Tim Shriver, Chairman and CEO, Special Olympics

The Story

Isaac is a serious pitcher. He’s got an awesome fastball and a sneaky changeup. He’s determined to pitch a perfect game: no hits, no runs, no walks, and no errors. He gets close a couple of times, but then a batter gets on base and Isaac totally loses his cool on the mound. He gets so mad that his pitches start missing their mark and he can’t get his head back in the game. Then Isaac learns about a Special Olympics Unified Sports team and meets an interesting athlete who shows him a new way to think about being perfect.

Common Core Lesson Plans and More

The History Weaved into the Plot

Twenty-three major league pitchers have thrown a perfect game – 27 straight outs. Some perfect games were thrown by Hall of Famers such as Cy Young, Sandy Koufax and Jim “Catfish” Hunter. But many not-so-great pitchers such as Dallas Braden, Don Larsen and the first man to ever throw a perfect game, Lee Richmond, have thrown perfect games too.

The Special Olympics Unified Sports program started in the 1980s as a way for its athletes and other kids to play and compete together on the same teams. . Now, more than 550,000 Special Olympics athletes and partners play many different sports all over the world. Best of all, by playing sports together, the athletes and partners become teammates and friends.

The Story Behind the Story

Perfect Game is a very important book for me. Ten years ago I decided to write about a kid who was determined to be the perfect pitcher. In my story, he was so determined that he couldn't accept anything less than perfection. Then he was invited to play on a weekend basketball team that was a mix of Special Olympics players and others kids like him. That experience changed his whole attitude about being perfect. But ten years ago, I just couldn't get the story right. Something just didn't ring true. Last year, however, I decided to give it another try. I started out by doing a lot more research. On weekends, I watched Special Olympics Unified Sports teams practice and compete in the gyms at Blessed Sacrament School in Washington, DC, and Landon School in Bethesda, Maryland. I got to know some of the organizers and players and families. That experience became part of Perfect Game and enriched my life. And this is a very different book than my first draft so many years ago. And one that I like a whole lot more.