________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 19 . . . . May 16, 2008


Shabash! 2nd ed.

Ann Walsh.
Toronto, ON: Sandcastle/Dundurn, 1994/2008.
109 pp., pbk., $11.99.
ISBN 978-1-55002-829-4.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Christine Torchia.

**** /4


"Come on, Dad. This is 1980; things have changed. The kids at school don't mind playing on the same team as me in gym. There won't be any problems. Really."

"Things have not changed at the mill, Rana. There are problems there; problems in the lunch room where the others say our food smells and problems when...." He stopped speaking. "Never mind.  We will learn to live with it, but we are adults. You are just a child and this hockey is a game for the gorays, not for us. There will be trouble, Rana. Bad trouble."

"But Dad, you're being old-fashioned. It's Canada's national sport. I'm Canadian. I want to play hockey and...."

"No Rana I forbid it."


"Shabash" is the Punjab word for "well done" and is something Rana secretly wishes he could hear cheered from the stands at his hockey game. Rana is an 11-year-old Canadian born Sikh living in a small British Columbia mill town with his parents and younger sister. Rana, aka Ron, is a typical Canadian boy who wants to join a minor league hockey team. After saving up all his allowance and paper route money, Rana attempts to register for hockey only to be discouraged  by the parents running the registration table. They try to think up reasons not to let him join and finally decide he still has to get his parents to sign the permission form. Refusing to take his money, they send Rana home with the forms hoping that he will not return. Rana is even more determined to join when he overhears one of the parents refer to him as a "stinking Hindu." He must now convince his parents that playing hockey is a good idea. It is Rana's mother who encourages his father to let Rana play, hoping that Rana will be able to bridge the gap between the cultures.

     Although Rana has the support of his new coach, he is not as easily accepted by his teammates, especially the team's goalie, Les, and Les's father. Les soon befriends Rana when the coach encourages Les to step down as goalie and then places Rana in the position. Les has never enjoyed being goalie and is relieved when Rana admits he, too, is scared to be in goal. Les's father is not as accepting of Rana's race or his friendship with his own son. He has seen too many friends lose jobs at the mill to the "stinking Hindu." The boys keep their friendship a secret as neither one want to face Les's father. 

     Rana meets many people throughout the book who treat him unfairly because of his race. Each experience makes him a little stronger. Rana begins the hockey season struggling to learn the game, but, as the season progresses, his skills begin to improve. His team now has a chance to win the season. Unfortunately, the night before the big game a late night phone call devastates Rana when he learns that their precious temple has been burned to the ground by two drunken white men who were angry after losing their jobs at the mill. Rana feels anger and frustration at the gorays (white people) who hate him and even at his own family for being different. Rana is confused and cannot decide where he belongs in his community. With guidance and a little pushing from his father, Rana realizes his actions have consequences, and he must make amends before he, too, becomes one of those people he despises. 

     Many boys Rana's age would have shared the same feelings dealing with discrimination and could easily relate to Rana. Shabash! would make a great addition to a classroom, sparking many interesting discussions. The story not only deals with prejudice but also with how feelings and actions can cause reactions and how we can make a difference just by accepting others as they are.

Highly Recommended.

Christine Torchia is an Early Childhood Educator / Educational Assistant and mother of two elementary school children in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.