________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 13. . . .February 20, 2009.


Going Places. (Orca Young Readers).

Fran Hurcomb.
Victoria, BC: Orca Books, 2008.
122 pp., pbk., $7.95.
ISBN 978-1-55469-019-0.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Lisa O'Hara.




     Fran Hurcomb's latest novel, Going Places, is a terrific read. Part sports story, part mystery, it's set in Fort Desperation in the Northwest Territories where Jess and her friends are tired of playing hockey with the boys. Not only are the boys getting to be much bigger than the girls, they are also checking and playing rough. Jessís mother suggests that they might want to start a girls' team, but there are only a few girls that actually play. Jess decides to see if anyone is interested though, and she puts a note in the local shop. To her surprise, 15 girls show up at a meeting, all eager to play. It looks like they have a team, but they need to find a coach and some equipment. The girls and parents band together to find equipment, and Curtis Beaulieu, a local hockey hero, agrees to coach the girls, even though he hasn't had anything to do with hockey since an injury forced him out of the NHL.

     The girls seem to be on their way until disaster strikes and someone vandalizes the only skate-sharpening machine in town. Although this delays their hockey season, the girls don't feel targeted until someone sprays "GIRLS GO HOME" on the outdoor rink and chops dangerous holes in the ice. The girls are upset, and the RCMP is too. If the girls hadn't noticed the holes in the ice, someone could have been seriously hurt. While the RCMP is going to investigate the matter, in the meantime, the girls have no place to practice until the local fire department sends out a pump truck to spray the pond again.

     Of course, the Hockey Vandal is a major topic of conversation in the town, and the girls are wondering who it could be. One of the players comes up with a plan to catch the Vandal, and eight of them go to the rink with their digital cameras, planning to photograph him in the act.

"Hey, you!" shouted Opal.

The Vandal turned towards us and froze. Camera flashes started going off, one after the other.

"What the ---" He stood up and stared, stunned for a moment, it seemed. We stood and stared too. For a moment everything was still. Deep in the bush an owl hooted. Then the Vandal was all motion. He turned and jumped on the Ski-Doo, cranked its motor into action and was gone in a roar and a cloud of snow, across the rink and down the trail.

We all jumped up and down and hollered. High fives all around.

     The girls turn their evidence over to the local RCMP officer who grounds them. Later, he calls them together with their parents and tells them all that the Vandal has been caught. He warns the girls not to try anything like that again though. Once the girls can practice in peace, they eventually beat the PeeWee boys in town. And, eventually, their dream comes true and their team gets to go on a road trip - girls only!

     Not only is this a well-written book with a good plot, it is a lot of fun. As the book is written from Jess's point of view, readers will learn what it is like to grow up in a small northern town where, if the skate machine is vandalized, nobody skates. And where the weather is so cold that the local pond freezes over in October and the temperature drops to -20 Celsius. Fort Desperation is a community where families don't have a lot individually, but the communityís pulling together can equip a girls' hockey team and send them on a road trip. Jess's views and her day-to-day life alone make this an interesting book to read. Add hockey and a mystery, and what more can kids in this age group want?

Highly Recommended.

Lisa O'Hara is a librarian and mother of three in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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