CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 12 . . . . February 2, 2007
A Hero Named Howe.
Mike Leonetti. Illustrated by Greg Banning.
Vancouver, BC: Raincoast Books, 2006.
32 pp., cloth, $$21.95.
Howe, Gordie, 1928-Juvenile fiction.
Hewitt, Foster, 1902-1985-Juvenile fiction.
Detroit Red Wings (Hockey team)-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 1-5 / Ages 6-10.
Review by Ellen Heaney.
It was a hot day in August but my mind was on ice hockey. Dad was driving me to the Detroit Olympia for the Detroit Red Wings hockey school. I was excited about meeting the players who were going to be my instructors. Best of all, my hero Gordie Howe was going to be there!
Gordie Howe was the best player in the National Hockey League. He won the most valuable player award last year when he had 49 goals and 46 assists, and he led the league in points. Howe was named to the first all-star team and he led the Red Wings to the finals but the Toronto Maple Leafs beat them for the Stanley Cup.
Gordie Howe grew up in very-small-town Saskatchewan, learning to play hockey the Canadian way, on an outdoor rink. With a professional career that spanned 50 years and two sons who also became players in the National Hockey League, Howe’s achievements are marked by induction into 11 different halls of fame and he has a statue honouring him in Saskatoon. He certainly was one of the first media icons of our national sport.
Mike Leonetti must be some hockey fan! A prolific writer of sports books for adults, he has already given us five titles in the “Hockey Heroes” series, including My Leafs' Sweater and Number Four, Bobby Orr. The format of the books in the series is the same: a fictionalized telling of an encounter between a young person who is crazy about hockey and one of his idols.
In A Hero Named Howe, Charlie, a young hockey player in Detroit, has the opportunity of attending a skills school put on by Red Wings personnel. He strives to put what he has learned into his own game. He reads Howe's book, Hockey: Here's Howe (the title of a book that actually was published in 1963) that delivers the message of being the best you can at whatever you attempt. Charlie realizes that, if he can't be a hockey player, he can be something else, perhaps a sports announcer like the legendary Foster Hewitt, who also makes an appearance in the book.
Leonetti seems to be equally concerned with telling a story and giving us information about the historical period and hockey. There is a nostalgic quality to the titles in this series that will make them at least as interesting to adults as they are to children. Most of the openings in the book under review here have a full-page illustration of some incident in the story, faced with a page of text. The designer's decision to HIGHLIGHT certain words and phrases in a different (and larger) typeface is a little annoying, as the HIGHLIGHTED parts are not necessarily the most vital to the story.
Illustrator Greg Banning has worked on two of the “Hockey Heroes” volumes. His solid acrylic painting fills the pages, and the human figures have a sculptural quality. Period details add a certain retro feeling. A Hero Named Howe is not a first purchase, but it has a place in larger collections, particularly where there are lots of young readers interested in hockey. It could also possibly have a use in school units on occupations and working toward a goal [pun intended].
Ellen Heaney is Head of Children's Services at the New Westminster Public Library in New Westminster, BC.
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