CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 12 . . . . February 6, 2009
Lorna Schultz Nicholson’s ice hockey book, Holding, is the final book in her hockey series featuring the characters, Josh Watson, Sam Douglas and Peter Kuiksak—all elite young Canadian hockey players. In Holding, Josh and Sam have loaded their team with friends for the annual summer camp to the Okanagan Hockey School in Penticton, BC. As such, the team not only gels in terms of ability but also in terms of friendship and companionability. Unfortunately for Josh and his teammates, however, Josh has made the mistake of inviting his cousin, Troy, to join the team. The Winnipegger, Troy, is a braggart who defies the school rule of no gambling. In so doing, Troy not only upsets the many people from whom he wins a lot of money, but he also endangers his team’s chances of successfully proceeding through the tournament.
As with other books of Nicholson’s,—and as with other “Sports Stories” titles from Lorimer—Holding is somewhat formulaic and didactic. The formulaic nature of the book leaves the eventual outcome predictable and, as an adult reader, the didactics are sometimes grating. Having said these things, that is not to say that younger readers will necessarily find the book’s conclusion as predictable or the sermonizing about fair play and honesty as off-putting. Indeed, these factors may contain a certain appeal for some younger readers.
Although, front and centre, the story is a hockey story, other notions of sport and sportsmanship lay only a little beneath the surface of the book. In Holding, these notions include such desirable and undesirable elements as team play, competition, gambling, bribery and, even, match fixing
I noticed some occasions where the editing could have been stronger. In one instance early in the book, Josh lays awake in his team’s dormitory room, wondering about how he will be able to sleep with 16 people in his room. I can only account for 14 people being in the room at that time (Josh and his 12 teammates and the team counsellor). Later, a coach is assigned to the team, although it is not made clear that he sleeps in the same dormitory. Whether he does or not, the 16 count still seems to me to be inaccurate. Elsewhere, Carl and Barry are described as “by far the strongest guys on the team” yet, in the next sentence, we learn that “Troy came in a close third” (emphasis added in both extracts). For me, the two sentences are contradictory.
The story is 124 pages in length, with 15 individually titled chapters. The short, fast-paced and simple chapters are likely to appeal especially to struggling young readers with an interest in hockey. The book is not without a number of strengths. Certainly, the hockey action is abundant throughout the book, and Nicholson describes the action well. As the central character, Josh is well developed, and his turmoil and disappointment in his cousin’s behaviour is well crafted. In terms of her depictions of boys in their early teens, some aspects of Nicholson’s portrayals seem to me to be accurate, and readers will be able to identify with some of the characters and some of the character traits.
There are no female characters of any significance in Holding. One attractive girl proves somewhat of a distraction for some of the boys but, although she is the main female character, even her role is minor. Although I think that the book has limited appeal, it will prove to be an engaging read for many pre-teen male hockey enthusiasts. Lorna Schultz Nicholson’s books fill a niche and provide interesting reading material for some readers who otherwise might choose not to read at all. As such, Nicholson’s role is an important one, and she generally attends to that role well.
Recommended with reservations.
Gregory Bryan is a sports enthusiast who teaches children’s literature at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.
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