________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 10. . . .January 9, 2009


Drive. (Sports Stories).

Eric Howling.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2008.
134 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55277-009-2 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55277-010-8 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Golf stories.
Self-confidence-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

** /4



TJ and his gang thought they were the coolest four guys at school. Jake was used to seeing them march down the crowded hall side-by-side like a small army, all wearing brand new khaki pants and white golf shirts with the red Royal Calgary logo, expecting the other kids, and even teachers, to move out of their way. What always surprised Jake was how everyone ran for cover. He wasn't the only one intimidated by the Fearsome Foursome.

What Jake really resented was that they had the money to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. But, even though he told Randy he hated the Fearsome Foursome, some small part of him secretly wished he could join their club. Jake knew they were jerks, but they were rich jerks. Maybe having big allowances was worth the trade-off.


Given the enormous popularity of Tiger Woods, I wonder if golf is not more popular than it ever has been, particularly among young sports enthusiasts. As such, Eric Howling's short golf novel, Drive, will no doubt attract interest among pre-teen readers. Drive serves up similar fair to other books in the Lorimer "Sports Stories" series of books. It is largely predictable and somewhat didactic, contains a simple story line encased in short, fast-paced chapters, and contains significant amounts of well-described sport action. The 18 individually titled chapters are reflective of the 18 holes of a round of golf. There is a three-page glossary of golf terms at the end of the book.

     Despite some weaknesses, the book will appeal to sport loving young male readers, particularly those who find themselves spellbound by the Tiger Woods phenomenon. Furthermore, despite the general simplicity of the plot, Howling does tackle the difficult issue of school bullying. Jake Cooper and his best friend, Randy Robinson, attend the Evergreen Junior High School in Calgary, where the group known as the "Fearsome Foursome"—TJ, Brandon, Ryan and Zach—are the school bullies. The Fearsome Foursome come from wealthy families, and, as if it is their birthright, the four boys all seem almost to expect others to bow in their presence. The four even bully some teachers, as in the case with the math teacher, Mr. Dunnford, who, we are told, is hurt and upset by the things TJ says to him.

      All four members of the Fearsome Foursome are also members of the prestigious Royal Calgary Golf Club where TJ has been Junior Club Champion for two successive years. Although not members of the golf club, Jake and Randy are passionate golfers who sneak onto the course at five o'clock each morning to play before anyone else arrives at the club. Eric Howling is here borrowing from his own life in that he, too, used to sneak onto a local golf course when he was a boy.

      Although the book moves along at a fast pace, there are occasions when the speed does not allow for the story line to be sufficiently developed. As a result, some story events appear too convenient and, therefore, unrealistic. For instance, Jake conveniently happens across the opportunity to receive free golf lessons from the club professional just moments after that is what Jake decides that he needs (which, by the way, is a decision arrived at when Jake's swing suddenly and inexplicably—conveniently—deserts him).

      Only one female character appears in the book. Jake's single mother is a strong, generally well-written character, and I suspect that Howling may have increased his appeal to female readers by including other females in the story.

      Despite its simplicity, the story moves along easily. Howling includes some tongue-in-cheek humour that I found enjoyable, particularly in the episode in which the club head professional, Cliff Spencer, joins Jake and his mother for a meal at Jake's house.

      I believe that Drive has limited appeal but, having said that, for middle school male sport (particularly golf) enthusiasts, Howling's novel will quickly grasp and hold their attention. The "Sports Stories" books may not be wonderful literature, but they fill a niche and provide engaging reading material for boys who might otherwise choose not to read.

Recommended with reservations.

Gregory Bryan is a sports enthusiast who lives in Winnipeg, MB. He teaches children's literature in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba.

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

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