CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 29. . . .April 2, 2010.
I Want to be in the Show.
Jane Chartrand & Dionne Nolan. Illustrated by James Mathieu Chambers.
Winnipeg, MB: Pemmican Publications, 2009.
24 pp., stapled, $10.95.
Hockey stories, Canadian (English).
Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.
Review by Dave Jenkinson.
It was on a very cold February evening in Kingston, Ontario that a beautiful boy named Tristan was born. Tristan’s parents were overjoyed. They loved him completely. Even though one of his feet turned inward, he was perfect in their eyes, and they thanked Creator day and night, night and day.
Some readers might recall Danny, the central character in The Moccasin Goalie and The Final Game: The Further Adventures of the Moccasin Goalie, written and illustrated by William Roy Brownridge. Because of a crippled leg and foot, Danny could not wear skates. Instead, he just tended goal in his moccasins, a practice that earned him the nickname "Moccasin Danny." The idea of a boy who physically can’t wear skates and, therefore, can’t play hockey is revisited by Jane Chartrand and Dionne Nolan in I Want to be in The Show.
Unfortunately, unlike the Brownridge books which utilized a short time span, one to which Brownridge’s young readers could relate, Chartrand and Nolan’s 24-page story about Tristan covers a much, much longer time period, at least 18 years, from Tristan’s birth through to his making it to The Show aka the National Hockey League. As a result, I Want to be in The Show simply does not work as an illustrated book for early readers. Instead, because so many areas of the story remain underdeveloped, the book reads more like the outline of a novel intended for a middle years audience.
When Tristan was born, as the excerpt above notes, “one of his feet turned inward” and, as a consequence, he had to wear a special brace on his left leg when he was a toddler. Because the brace caused him pain and interfered with his sleeping, Tristan was sometimes “allowed to stay up late and watch hockey [on television] on his dad’s big comfy chair.” From this experience, plus playing with the hockey stick his parents bought him, Tristan developed the dream “that someday he would be able to skate and play in the NHL.” At some point before Tristan’s eighth birthday, doctors told Tristan’s parents that Tristan needed an operation to “completely correct his foot.” The doctors also stated that the complicated operation had to be performed at “a special hospital in Montreal” and that the immediate postoperative care would be three weeks in duration. Since Tristan’s parents lacked the financial resources to pay for the “expensive trip” and the surgery, the operation didn’t occur. When Tristan was eight, a new family moved in next door, and one of the family members was Sean who was the same age as Tristan. The two boys, who became best friends, played ball hockey in the fall, but when winter came and Sean said his family would build a backyard rink so they could play ice hockey, Tristan shared, “...I can’t. I need an operation, and without it I won’t be able to skate.” When Sean tells Tristan, “So get the operation!”, Tristan confesses, “I can’t, because we can’t afford it.” Sean’s father overhears the conversation, and, after four years of secret fundraising, he informs Tristan and his parents, “Our community has raised enough money for his operation.” Following the successful operation, Tristan practices his skating, and when the boys see a poster at school announcing that “the Youth Club was sponsoring a shootout contest” and “The winner would get to play in the [Kingston] Limestone Classic in February.” the two friends decide to enter and Tristan actually wins. On the day of the tournament, a hockey scout is so impressed with Tristan’s play that he asks to represent Tristan who, the scout says, will be a hockey star in the future. And so, eventually Tristan does make it to the NHL, and he is invited back to play in the Limestone Classic where he gets an opportunity to inspire the next generation of NHLers.
As my “brief” plot summary indicates, there is enough material in these 24 pages for many picture books or at least one longish middle school novel. While the authors, among other things, wanted to highlight Kingston’s annual February Limestone Classic, the event actually gets in the way of the storyline. And the book’s moral, as expressed by Tristan on the book’s penultimate page, “Hang on to your dreams and realize your potential. Reach for the stars and make them your own,” while most laudable, could have found its expression via a story occupying a much shorter time span.
Although the book’s cover, title page and final page each carry a full-colour illustration, Chambers’s other illustrations, one or two per page, are all done in shades of grey. While this colour choice may reflect the “down” parts of Tristan’s life story, the whole book is not a “downer” and Chambers really needed to use a larger range of colours.
While libraries need more books with First Nations characters, they may want to pass on this one.
Recommended with reservations.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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