________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 2. . . .September 10, 2010.


Kayak Combat. (Sports Stories).

Eric Howling.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2010.
117 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-55277-476-2.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Tanya Boudreau.





Logan, Nick, Nate, Kai and I started doing our warm-up exercises on the dock while we waited for Coach Wilson to return.

“Tanner seemed like a nice guy,” Kai said, stretching.

“And funny, too,” Nate laughed.

“He’s going to be good to have on the team,” Nick added.

Kai, Nick, and Nate went to the other end of the dock to put on their lifebelts and left me standing alone with Logan.

I felt rooted to the dock. “Nice…funny…good? Were they talking about the same guy I just met?” I asked Logan.

“You have to admit the dude was kickin’ it out there on the water. If he’s that good in a race, we’ll have the best team in the country.” Logan strapped his lifebelt around his waist. “You should be glad he’s here. It’s like you always say, we’re out there to win.” He slipped his boat into the water and folded his limbs into the egg-shaped opening. With a quick nod, he slowly paddled off.

Ghost Lake becomes the setting for fierce competition between two of Alberta’s top young kayakers. Both are out to prove they deserve to be representing Alberta in the Canadian National Regatta. Under the direction of Coach Wilson, 12-year-old Cody and 13-year-old Tanner have been training with the Bantam Sprint Team just outside Calgary, AB. Training and practicing among the insults and taunts turns distracting and then deadly as Tanner breaks the three club rules and ventures out for an extra training workout during a storm. Now racing to save a life, Cody uses his skills and speed to find help and rescue Tanner. Working together against the elements, Cody and Tanner survive and go on to compete, as a team, in the Canadian National Regatta. Although they don’t win first prize, they do come away with a new respect for each other and a strong friendship. Smaller plots in the book conclude with equally happily endings. Cody and Tanner’s parents find a way to work together to preserve land from developers, and Coach Wilson’s long held feelings of sadness dissipate when he realizes winning isn’t everything.

     Kayak Combat will appeal to boys who enjoy short sports stories. The mountainous rural scenery is a great background for this high-energy read. The constant verbal clashing between the two boys (and sometimes the coach) in this story is realistic at this age, not offensive. And it might seem like hard work sometimes, but the author has provided enough details about the experience of kayaking that some readers (girls, too) may be interested in trying out this sport for themselves.

     With its attractive color photo cover, Kayak Combat is one of over 100 books in the “Sports Stories” series. Author and kayaker Eric Howling (author of Drive) lives in Calgary, AB.


Tanya Boudreau is a librarian at the Cold Lake Public Library in Cold Lake, AB.

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

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