CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 21. . . .February 4, 2011.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2010.
163 pp., pbk., $6.99.
Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.
Review by Beth Wilcox.
J.T. “Nugget” McDonald can’t wait for the hockey season to begin, but the diminutive 11-year-old faces an unexpected difficulty when the hulking Eddie Bosko joins his team and starts challenging Nugget’s position as starting right winger. Life is already stressful for Nugget who is struggling to pass his math class. When he is benched for his poor grades and given Eddie as a math tutor, Nugget’s dreams of playing hockey seem doomed unless he can pull off the “mathematics equivalent of a hat trick” – three good grades over three tests.
The first day of practice!
I smiled in the darkness, picturing the Zamboni slowly circling the rink, leaving a slick, shiny trail I couldn’t wait to carve up with my skates. The image was what Dad would call “a kick in the pants,” but the good kind. The kind that made me throw off the covers and leap out of bed, excited and ready to go.
I showered and dressed as fast as I could, smiling the whole time. When I met Mum in the kitchen, I was ready for action in warm track pants and my favourite Canucks hoodie (the one with the old-school logo).
W.B. Mack’s hockey-themed juvenile novel, Hat Trick, is sure to find fans among young readers who have the same passion for hockey as does Nugget. Hockey is never far from the spotlight in this plot-driven novel as Nugget faces challenges on ice and off that all have direct consequences on his ability to play the sport. Most youth in the novel’s target age range of 9 to 11-years-old will have little difficulty following the fairly simple vocabulary used in Nugget’s narration; however, some younger readers may find the book’s layout and 163-page length to be text-heavy.
In many ways, as the novel’s narrator and hero, Nugget is an excellent role model for his young readers: he eats (and enjoys!) the healthy meals his mom cooks, accepts discipline and the consequences of his mistakes gracefully, and respects adults. Mack shows real talent in making such a character likable and believable. However, while Mack may be realistically representing the ignorance and biases of an 11-year-old boy, Nugget makes a few sexist remarks about females in hockey that may offend some readers. Nugget generally presents hockey as a male sport. For instance, when his class plays hockey, the girls are “pretty useless” (63). Nugget says boys play hockey while girls are part of the Cutter Bay Ice Dancers. It is unfortunate that this overall stereotype of hockey as a male sport pervades the novel and does not reflect the reality in Canada.
Though the story has some flaws, it is likely many young people will enjoy the hockey-themed story. While Hat Trick is not a literary classic, it is a fun story that will have readers rooting for Nugget until the end.
Beth Wilcox is a graduate from the Master of Arts in Children’s Literature program at the University of British Columbia currently attending the Faculty of Education at Queen’s University in Kingston, ON.
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