CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 14. . . .March 6, 2009
Canadian Sports. (Canada Close Up).
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2009.
60 pp., pbk., $6.99.
Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.
Review by Jonine Bergen.
Not many of the sports we play today have actually been invented. Most usually develop from other sports over time, like hockey. It got its start from games that began in other countries.
According to Susan Hughes, Canadians love all kinds of sports. Throughout our history we have created sports, played sports and found fame through sports. Canadian Sports, as part of the "Canada Close Up" series, provides a quick general overview of a few of the Canadian highlights in this field.
Organized into four colour coded chapters with an introduction, table of contents, and a glossary, Canadian Sports covers the topics of "Canada's National Sports," "Made in Canada," "Popular Sports" and "Great Athletes, Great Moments." The layout of the book is very effective. The use of text boxes, subheadings and bold text for glossary items provides direction for the reader. White space, a large font size and short paragraphs also enhance the child friendly aspect of the book.
Each chapter contains a brief overview of the topic, followed by a more detailed explanation of the individual sports. Shaded text boxes are interspersed to focus on important facts or trivia. The text is age appropriate, and the photographs are colourful and eye catching. However, the photographs are general in nature and are not used effectively to assist the reader in decoding the text. Also, the lack of an index is a real detriment to the reader looking for information on a particular sport. Without one, the book is approached more like a story than a nonfiction text.
Susan Hughes' real strength is storytelling. In one of her strongest chapters, "Great Athletes, Great Moments," Hughes uses many short story techniques, including suspense, to capture the flavour of the Summit Series of 1972 and the 2002 gold medal victories for the women's and men's hockey teams in the Winter Olympics. Her enthusiasm for hockey particularly shines in the vignettes found in this chapter.
This enthusiasm is more subdued in the pared-down prose of the other chapters. By striving for simplicity, she, at times, loses clarity in her explanations. For example, she explains that hockey may have come from shinty, but does not clarify what shinty is. The glossary at the back was similarly vague on details, defining shinty as "a game derived from hurling, and resembling hockey, played in Scotland." I had to look shinty up in the dictionary to explain to my co-reader that shinty was played with curved sticks, a ball and taller goal posts. He also did not understand what a bishop's staff had to do with a lacrosse stick. These tidbits could have been gems; instead, they caused frustration.
My co-reader, a nine year old boy, enjoyed Canadian Sports. His favourite chapters were "Made in Canada" and "Great Athletes, Great Moments," though he thought Susan Hughes missed some important moments from sports other than hockey. He was also impressed that Canadians contributed to the development of basketball, synchronized swimming and five-pin bowling. He gave Canadian Sports three stars.
We Canadians do love our sports, but we also like the details that come from the replays. To answer specific questions we will have to find another source to supplement this one. Canadian Sports does score some goals, but it won't win the Cup.
Jonine Bergen is a teacher and library technician in the Pembina Trails School Division in Winnipeg, MB.
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