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


No Contact. (Sports Stories).

Sandra Diersch.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2008.
135 pp., pbk. & hc., $8.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55277-024-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55277-025-2 (hc.).

Grades 3-8 / Ages 8-13.

Review by Lindsay Schluter.





"Get it Meghan!" Debbie cried, standing. "Come on! Get in there and help her out, Vanessa!"

Vanessa skated in, but the Sentinels player was taller and stronger. She outmaneuvered the two Lightening players and came up with the puck. In the skirmish, she tripped Meghan. Debbie looked to the ref for the whistle, but none came.

"Come on, Ref! Call it both ways!" Debbie yelled.

Meghan got up and skated after the play as the door to the penalty box opened and Debbie skated out. Coach Mitch signaled Debbie off the ice, and she headed toward the bench. But then the player who had tripped Meghan skated past. Without thinking, Debbie stuck out her stick, caught the player's foot, and sent her to the ice. The whistle blew then, long and hard.

     In Sandra Diersch's latest “Sports Stories” novel, we are re-introduced to the character of Debbie Lowell who first appeared in Home Court Advantage, a Canadian Children's Book Centre Our Choice selection back in 2001. The sequel begins about a year after the end of the first novel;

however, readers may have a hard time recognizing Debbie for the simple fact that she now plays hockey instead of basketball.

     Context aside, the novel does carry enough weight that it can be read as a stand-alone title. The overall arch of the story is unhindered by the events of the previous book, and the plot is essentially independent from its predecessor.

     Still living in Maple Ridge, BC, Debbie has discovered a new found passion for the puck. She would do almost anything to be out on the ice, driving towards the net at full speed – yet her adoptive mother doesn't have the first clue about how the game is played. Debbie wishes that her mother were more like coach Steph, a hockey fanatic whose love-of-the-game enthusiasm rivals that of Wayne Gretsky himself. Debbie's mom takes her to every practice, and she even makes an attempt to come to all of her games; however, when Debbie finds herself in the "downward dog" position at a mother-daughter yoga class, she starts to wonder whether she really fits in with her new family.

     Throughout the novel, there are several play-by-play action sequences, and, although this type of writing may appeal to the die-hard hockey fan, it is actually very difficult to visualize a fast-paced series of events that has been stretched out over two pages of text. I did not experience the kind of breathless anticipation that goes along with watching a hockey game on TV, or even listening to a match on the radio.

     The most delightful scenes are, in fact, those in which Debbie is on a camping trip with her fellow Pathfinders – a detail that just might appeal to Camp Rock enthusiasts. For the first time, Debbie sings along to several campfire classics, learns how to set up her own tent, and discovers the deliciousness of s'mores.

     It isn't until Debbie is back in the locker room with her teammates that she begins to realize that no one's mother is perfect. All the girls begin to talk about their own mothers' idiosyncrasies, ultimately coming to the conclusion that "everyone else's mother is always better. It's the mother you have to live with that's the problem."

     Marketed as a "hi-low" novel for reluctant readers, the book, itself, doesn't entirely live up to its high-interest promise. However, it is good to see that the female athlete is now taking centre stage in this and several other sports series for the pre-teen age group.

Recommended with reservations.

Lindsay Schluter is a Children's Librarian at West Vancouver Memorial Library.

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

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