________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 11 . . . . February 3, 2006


Hat Tricks Count: A Hockey Number Book.

Matt Napier. Illustrated by Melanie Rose.
Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press (Distributed in Canada by H.B. Fern and Company Ltd., 34 Nixon Rd, ON), 2005.
36 pp., cloth, $22.95.
ISBN 1-58536-163-1.

Subject Headings:
Hockey-Juvenile literature.
Number concept-Juvenile literature.
Counting-Juvenile literature.

Kindergarten and up / Ages 5 and up.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

*** /4


5 is for one of the openings
                        where a player can score a goal.
The space between the goalie’s pads
                        is known as the 5-hole.


If a player scores a goal by shooting the puck through the goalie’s legs, it’s common to hear someone say “he went five-hole on that shot!” Goal scorers are always looking for new ways to trick goalies into leaving openings to the net, but goalies have been known to use slight trickery as well. Some goalies have the insides of their pads painted white so against the white ice it looks like there is more space to shoot the puck into the net!

     Also, Mario Lemieux is the only player to score five goals in a game in five different situations - even strength, short-handed, power play, penalty shot, and empty net.

     Readers may recall Napier’s earlier hockey-related concept book, Z is for Zamboni: A Hockey Alphabet. (Vol. 9, No. 20) Now he turns to numbers, focusing first on the numbers from one to 12, before jumping to 15, 20, 25, and 30. After 30, Napier continues by tens until he reaches 100 where the book ends. As with his alphabet book, this counting book uses a two-part text as illustrated by the excerpt above. One portion is a four line poem that uses an abcb rhyme scheme. The remainder of the text, which is rendered in prose, expands upon something mentioned in the poem.

     Each number, which appears on either a single page or via a double-page spread, is presented in its written and numerical forms, eg. two 2. The illustration will also contain something of the appropriate quantity that young readers, who may just be learning to count, can actually count. The number eight, for example, is made concrete via eight tickets to the 1972 Summit Series while 12 has a dozen youngsters playing a game of pick-up hockey on an outdoor rink. As the numbers get larger, illustrator Rose usually assists young counters by grouping the objects. Consequently, the number 20 has four groups of five girls while 70 shows seven groupings of 10 hockey sweaters. However, groupings are not always the case, and the number 25 is represented by a bank of the appropriate number of TV’s featuring Ron Maclean and Don Cherry from “Coach’s Corner.” Younger counters could be challenged by having to count the 15 pieces of hockey equipment. Are the goalie pads, the pair of gloves and the pair of skates each to be counted as one or two pieces of equipment? Unfortunately, the goalie mask falls into the gutter of the two-page spread and could be missed. (A similar problem occurs with the number 40 where one of the red uniformed players is swallowed up in the gutter.) What I thought was a jockstrap hanging on the wall is, according to the text’s list of equipment, apparently the goalie’s neck guard. The most challenging number is 100 which has an overhead view of a goalie in his crease, with a hundred pucks that have been fired at him during practice randomly resting on the ice. 

internal art

     The book’s content is a mixture of general facts and National Hockey League “history.” The former, for example, explains what a “hat trick” is and describes some of the various infractions which result in penalties while the latter connects various numbers with NHL players. Consequently, readers learn which players have worn the number four or that Henri Richard played on 11 Stanley Cup-winning Montreal Canadiens teams. While focusing primarily upon men’s hockey, Napier does not entirely overlook the fact that women also play the game, and he links US Olympian Cammi Granato to the number 20. As well, illustrator Rose also includes girls in her paintings of young players.

     As previously noted, Melanie Rose’s illustrations are critical in young children’s understanding of the concept of each number. Her single and double page paintings are a mixture of “frozen” action (a goalie with his mask tilted back while squirting water into his mouth from a plastic bottle) and what could be characterized as still lifes (three ball caps resting on the ice surface). In some instances, she has portrayed real people, such as Jean Beliveau, and, in the main, her renderings are accurate though that of Scotty Bowman, who coached for 30 years, misses the mark.

     The biggest challenge in evaluating Hat Tricks Count is trying to identify its appropriate audience. On the one hand, it is a counting book, a type of book usually associated with the very young, but the numbers Napier has elected to include depart from the norm for such books, i.e. 1-10. While adults understand that 12 is an important number because it’s a “dozen” and that 15 and 25 also are indicative of another number pattern, these subtleties will be lost on the novice counter. The text’s content seems to be directed at two different aged audiences, neither of them really preschoolers. The novice hockey player or fan is exposed to some of the game’s basics, such as how many players are on the ice at once or what equipment is worn by players. For the older, more knowledgeable reader, there is all of the NHL-based material which is mostly about players and events from the past, with almost no current players being mentioned.

     The divided audience will also challenge libraries in deciding where to shelve the book. The picture book format suggests one place while Hat Tricks Count’s more sophisticated content suggests another.


Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children’s and adolescent literature in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.