________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 12 . . . .February 18, 2005


Tommy's New Block Skates.

Garth Vaughan. Illustrated by David Preston Smith.
Halifax, NS: Nimbus, 2004.
38 pp., cloth, $16.95.
ISBN 1-55109-499-1.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Alison Mews.

**** /4



One day in spring, soon after the apple and pear trees started to blossom, I went with Father to Claude's blacksmith shop. The horses needed new iron shoes so they wouldn't slip on the ice in winter. Claude needed some fence posts so he could build a fence on his farm—the cows kept wandering into the marsh and getting muddy.

And of course, I needed my very own skates.

We made a deal. Father would make the fence posts for Claude, and Claude would make the horseshoes and the skates for us.

Next winter I would skate for real!


Set in Nova Scotia in the nineteenth century, this lovely picture book describes how young Tommy acquires a pair of old-fashioned block skates so he can skate on Half-mile Pond in the winter. Filled with historical detail both in text and illustration, the story chronicles Tommy's active participation in obtaining his skates by helping his father make fence posts to barter with the blacksmith. Each process is carefully described as the shoemaker, the blacksmith and harness maker each contribute his unique skills to creating the wooden skates. Finally winter arrives again, and a triumphant Tommy arrives at the frozen pond with his prized skates in hand.

internal art     Garth Vaughan, whose hockey history website, www.birthplaceofhockey.com, describes how ice hockey had its start in Windsor, Nova Scotia, has also written an adult history of ice hockey, The Puck Starts Here. In this book for children, he successfully details both the excitement of a young boy getting his first skates and the step-by-step process involved in making those skates by hand. The illustrator, David Preston Smith, has had a long career as an artist, including official status as sports artist for the Olympic Games and for the Canada Cup Hockey Series. He has carefully recreated the interior of artisan shops in the 1800's and provided the visual explanations of how these special skates were made.

     His energetic compositions allow Tommy's exuberance and that of his ever-present dog, Lucky, to shine through. As the story takes place over a full year, it gives Smith scope to depict seasonal changes in the countryside, and he does so admirably, incorporating flora and fauna of the Annapolis Valley. Young hockey fans will be intrigued to discover how hockey has evolved and will identify with Tommy's intense desire to "fly over the ice."

Highly Recommended.

Alison Mews is the librarian of the Curriculum Materials Centre at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in John's, NL.

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

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