CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 7. . . .October 16, 2009
The Best Goalie Ever.
Gilles Tibo. Illustrated by Bruno St-Aubin. Translated by Petra Johannson.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2009.
32 pp., pbk., $7.99.
Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.
Review by Jonine Bergen.
Nicolas just couldn't get to sleep. To get his mind off the game, he looked out the window. The moon was like a giant hockey puck. The clouds were like huge nets. The stars were champion shooters – and they were about to score on his net! Nicholas was worried. He lay awake, wishing tomorrow would never come.
Nicolas has been asked to be the goalie for his hockey team tomorrow because their regular goalie is sick. The problem is that he has "never stopped a puck in his life," and now he is so nervous that he just can't sleep. As a result, in the morning, he is so tired he trips on his toy car and walks into the door frame of the kitchen. All Nicholas wants to do is sleep – will he be able to stay awake for the game? Will he be able to save any goals?
Nicolas' dilemma is one to which many children can relate. The inability to sleep because of performance anxiety is common in school-aged children. This everyday issue makes a worthwhile topic for a picture book. What makes this story charming, however, is the exaggerated humour with which Tibo and St. Aubin deal with this real problem.
The Best Goalie Ever (Nicolas, roi du filet!) is the most recent English translation of the popular French language "Nicolas" series. Tibo and St. Aubin are a successful Quebec writing team whose simple stories and friendly illustrations have been enjoyed by French speaking children for some time. Luckily, some of their titles are slowly being translated into English allowing more children to enjoy the adventures – and misadventures - of Nicolas.
Perhaps it should be noted that I do have a bias toward books that have been translated into English from French. These translations allow English speakers the opportunity of hearing from some of Canada's great Quebec voices while the books also provide excellent teaching opportunities in regular and immersion programs. I hope we won't have to wait long for other Nicolas books to be translated and added to our libraries.
My guest reviewers were four children between the ages of two and eight. The younger ones drifted away during the story but returned when Nicolas finally made it into the net. The older two enjoyed looking for Nicolas' mouse friend hidden on each page. All giggled at the illustrations of Nicolas trying to sleep while goaltending. They also enjoyed pretending to be a sleepy Nicolas. Interestingly, though I didn't know these children personally, the older children had stories to share about being afraid of something they had to do. Nicolas seemed to provide them with an outlet to talk about their anxieties.
Jonine Bergen is a librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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