CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 12 . . . . February 2, 2007
Small Town Glory.
John Danakas & Richard Brignall.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2006.
119 pp., pbk. & cl., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (cl.).
ISBN 978-1-55028-943-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55028-961-9 (cl.).
Kenora Thistles (Hockey team)-History-Juvenile literature.
Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.
Review by Todd Kyle.
In the Kenora Thistles' dressing room, the players celebrated their victory. Smiles brightened their sweaty faces. Congratulations streamed in from across the country, including one from Kenora's mayor.
The Kenora Thistles were one win away from making their dream come true.
The next day the sports headline in the Ottawa Citizen asked , "Will Cup Go West?"
A nonfiction parallel to publisher Lorimer's “Sports Stories” series, Small Town Glory tells the story of how the Kenora Thistles hockey team became the only small-town team to win the Stanley Cup in the early twentieth century when the cup could be played for by any team that challenged the cup holder. In straightforward documentary style, Danakas and Brignall recount the beginnings of the team's renaissance, when teenaged farm team players gradually took over the team from older players, to their struggles against the odds to take the Cup from the Montreal Wanderers, to their loss of the Cup and eventual slide into relative obscurity.
Using much archival material, the authors have uncovered an inspiring story from the annals of Canada's great game that will appeal to hockey fans who are reluctant or remedial readers. Unfortunately, anyone who is not a hockey fan, or a fan who craves an exciting narrative or fascinating statistics and facts, will find this rather insubstantial book a disappointment.
Much of the book reads like the sports page, with too many trite game descriptions and, well, newspaper quotes. While the information appears meticulously researched (the authors thank their local library), the writing lacks both insight into the players' lives and the detail that hockey fans crave. The most entertaining portions were the few sidebars with illuminating facts about the early days of the game, but these were too few and far between, and the black-and-white photos too small to be really fascinating. Likewise, the authors give us some interesting insight into the players' inspirations, performance, and unique playing style (which foreshadowed today's strategic hockey), but these lack the resonance that knowing the players intimately would have provided.
As a high-interest, low-vocab paperback, it is hard to expect Small Town Glory to depict the depth of the Thistles players' inspiration, nor all of the historical backdrop, but perhaps readers would better enjoy a more focused pictorial essay, with more economical, enlightening and fact-filled text, than a narrative documentary with limited scope. In short, this book is appealing and informative, but ultimately not very inspiring, and not even very much fun.
Recommended with reservations.
Todd Kyle, a former President of the Canadian Association of Children's Librarians, is currently a library branch manager in Mississauga, ON.
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