CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 25. . . .March 4th., 2011.
One Hockey Night.
David Ward. Illustrated by Brian Deines.
Toronto, ON: North Winds Press/Scholastic Canada, 2010.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
Kindergarten-grade 4 / Ages 5-9.
Review by Valerie Nielsen.
One Hockey Night is David Ward’s second picture book featuring Owen, a 10-year-old hockey enthusiast. The Hockey Tree, published in 2006, was the winner of the 2007 Shining Willow Award. Also illustrated by Brian Deines, it evoked a tone of gentle nostalgia for the days of playing shinny on prairie ponds and sloughs. Ward’s latest picture book has a similar tone and takes place just weeks after Owen’s family has moved across the country from a small town in Saskatchewan to a similar town in Nova Scotia. Owen is not happy about the move.
It was nearly Christmas, and all his friends were far away in Saskatchewan. Worse still, there was no frozen lake here in Kettle Harbour. How could he and his sister play hockey the way they loved best?
Holly and his sister resign themselves to shooting goals on each other on their front driveway. Dad has told them the backyard is off limits. “‘It’ll be just for a while,’ he had said. ‘Sort of a secret.’” On Christmas Eve, Holly and Owen are sent out with their skates and sticks to the backyard, where, lo and behold, a hockey rink has materialized. With the help of neighbours who have brought over lobster crates, Owen’s parents have spent the last few days before Christmas Eve secretly constructing a hockey rink in their backyard. Those readers who have engaged in backyard rink-building may be forgiven for finding it difficult to believe that two kids could have the wool pulled over their eyes quite so successfully. That hours of tramping and building and sprinkling right beneath the noses of two eager skaters went unnoticed is just a bit too difficult to swallow.
Brian Deines, oil on canvas illustrations bring to life the snowy, dark December setting of the story perfectly. His use of warm colours depicting a sunset, interior scenes and an array of hockey jerseys effectively heightens the contrast readers will feel as they shiver through the bleak mid-winter of the story.
In an “Author’s Note,” David Ward remarks that a story from a Hockey Night in Canada contest for the best backyard rink gave him the inspiration for One Hockey Night. One Nova Scotia contestant had made his rink from lobster crates. “How Canadian!” thought Ward as he tucked away this little gem of hockey history for future story-making.
One Hockey Night is based on the author’s fondness for the national winter game and draws on his earliest memories of skating outdoors at night in Quebec where pond hockey was a part of winter life. It is a gentle story without anything much in the way of plot, theme or character development, but it will likely be appreciated by hockey fans in the primary grades.
A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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