________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 38 . . . . June 3, 2011


Power Play. (Sports Stories).

Michele Martin Bossley.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2010.
117 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-55277-555-4.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Rob Bittner.

***Ĺ /4



Basketball is cool, and so is soccer, and even football, but nothing compares to hockey. Iíll never grow tall enough for basketball, run fast enough for soccer, or be big enough for football. But on skates, Iím the fastest on my team. Until now, it never mattered too much that Iím not as big as the other guys, because I could slip through the defence and score practically before they got their skates laced up. YeahóIím quick on the blades.

Until this year. Iím still quick, but now in PeeWee the big guys on the other team can take me out any time they feel like it. They can yawn with one hand and reach out and clothesline me with the other. And I donít know how to stop them. It gives a whole new meaning to power play. They have all the poweróIím just trying to play.

Zach isnít the most popular kid in school. Heís not particularly good looking, and, just to top it off, heís short. But heís great at hockey, and thatís what counts. That is, until he gets body-checked and ends up with a broken wrist. While he takes time off from his practices, the coach has a heart attack and Zachís father ends up taking over for a while. With his dad in charge and his confidence down, Zach has to build a thick skin and learn how to play more than just hockey.

      Michele Martin Bossley is a skilled author with many powerful and compelling titles to her name. Power Play is no exception, blending life on and off the ice to create an exciting and absorbing read. Her ability bring in sports trivia into dialogue with a natural flow is also worthy of notice. The facts come across as informative for the layman but not didactic or over the top for those who are already in the know.

      Power Play does get slightly bogged down in its own metafictional narrative, with Zach musing that guys donít read because there arenít enough books about sports. Gwen, another girl in Zachís grade, keeps bringing up the idea that girls are better readers than guys, and she intends to prove it during a read-a-thon. This sub-plot is not all that helpful, in my opinion, and comes off as didactic after a few instances. The inclusion of this is understandable, but not entirely necessary and will most likely turn off a few readers.

      The pace picks up as the hockey season gets into full gear and Zach meets an old nemesis on the ice. Jason Briggs has a vendetta, and Zach is going to pay, or at least, thatís the plan. When they meet up on the ice, Zach doesnít seem to stand a chance, and a lot is put at stake in these moments: Zachís future as a hockey player, his safety, his dignity and self-esteem, and his chances of meeting his hero.

      The story also covers a lot of ground in terms of issues that young people face in daily life: bullying, tricky family dynamics, academic expectations, and classmate rivalries. It is also a clear glimpse into the stress and anxiety that can come from playing sports, in terms of the time commitments, personal safety issues, and clashes of power. With the exception of the metafictive qualities mentioned above, the issues are handled well and without an overly instructional quality. It will be easy for young people to relate to the excitement and worries that Zach experiences within Bossleyís fictional world.

      A brilliant mix of hockey knowledge and swiftly moving narrative, Power Play is a great novel for any young reader who has a passion for sports and a desire for a compelling story. Bossleyís talent lies in her action sequences and dialogue, and though there are a few moments of didacticism and blatant instruction on certain topics, the overall narrative is attention-grabbing and very enjoyable.

Highly Recommended.

Rob Bittner is a graduate student of Childrenís and Young Adult Literature at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. He knew almost nothing about hockey until this book.

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

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