CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 13. . . .November 30, 2012
H is for Hockey: An NHL Alumni Alphabet.
Kevin Shea. Illustrated by Ken Dewar.
Ann Arbor, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 2012.
32 pp., hardcover, $17.95.
Grades 3 and up / Ages 8 and up.
Review by Dave Jenkinson.
Three stars are selected
at the end of each game.
They skate out for the fans
when they announce each one's name.
The Three Stars selection at the conclusion of each game is a popular and longstanding tradition in hockey, honouring the three best players in that contest.
The practice began in 1936-37 as a way for Imperial Oil (now known as Esso) to advertise the Imperial Three Star brand of gasoline on Hockey Night in Canada radio broadcasts. Although that brand of gasoline is long gone, the tradition continues today and is a common practice in all NHL arenas.
Readers already familiar with previous alphabet-based Sleeping Bear Press publications will recognize the layout of H is for Hockey: An NHL Alumni Alphabet which incorporates a two-part text. As shown in the excerpt above, each letter is presented via a four-line poem, and then the content of that poem is expanded upon via sidebar expository text. Sleeping Bear Press has previously published two other hockey-focussed books that utilize this same format, Z is for Zamboni: A Hockey Alphabet (Vol. IX, No. 20, June 6, 2003) and Hat Tricks Count: A Hockey Number Book (Vol. XII, No.11, Feb. 3, 2006).
In H is for Hockey, each page is devoted to a single letter of the alphabet, with the exception of H, M, X and Y which are treated via double page spreads. Not an alphabet book in the traditional sense of the book's having its primary purpose being that of teaching youngsters the letters of the alphabet, the work does, nevertheless, show each letter in its upper and lower case forms. As the book's subtitle, An NHL Alumni Alphabet, indicates, the volume's primary focus is historical, especially regarding those who have, at one time, played in the National Hockey League.
According to the dust jacket blurb, author Kevin Shea "is a member of the Society for International Hockey Research and sits on the Toronto Maple Leafs' Historical Committee." A 2012 recipient of the Brian McFarlane Award for Excellence in research and writing from the Society for International Hockey Research, Shea teaches hockey history at a Toronto college and writes for the Hockey Hall of Fame. Shea's hockey knowledge really comes through in the book's text. Appropriately, the word associated with the first letter of the alphabet is "alumni," and Shea provides readers with a history of the NHL Alumni Association. An unnecessary duplication occurs with Nn "National Hockey League" and Xx "X marks the city" which both list the 30 NHL teams. Trivia fans will be engaged by some of the tidbits that Shea incorporates, such as the fact contained in Rr "Retired" that, "When the Minnesota Wild joined the NHL in 2000, they retired the number 1 as a tribute to their fans!" In addition to his own words. Shea occasionally includes quotes from some past NHL greats.
A professional illustrator for the past three decades, Ken Dewar, the illustrator for H is for Hockey, is now an instructor at his alma mater, the Alberta College of Art and Design. His realistic style is most appropriate for the content, at times portrait-like and in other instances action-filled. One small design weakness is that Dewar often uses real former NHLers in his illustrations, but they are not identified either in the text or by some type of note. For instance, on the Aa page, Guy Lafleur, in an NHL Alumni jersey, is portrayed dropping the puck at a face-off between two youngsters while two of the six Sutter brothers represent Bb "Brothers." Unless readers are of a certain age or are very serious hockey fans, the "faces" will be meaningless. Likely because of NHL copyright restrictions, Dewar's "real" players wear appropriately numbered jerseys in NHL team colours but without any identifying team logos.
Given that no woman has ever played for an NHL team during the regular season, H is for Hockey is a bit light in female content. Dewar, however, does find ways via his illustrations to connect girls to the book's subject matter. For example, in Dd "Draft," while Shea's text initially addresses the NHL draft, he then goes on to describe the more informal ways that children use to pick teams for fun games, Dewar's accompanying illustration portrays a multicultural, mixed gender group of children choosing up teams. His illustration for Ss "Stanley Cup" includes a girl looking at the trophy in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
As is the case with some other alphabet books from Sleeping Bear Press, identifying an audience for H is for Hockey is a challenge. An alphabet book in picture book format suggests that the book should likely be shelved in the children's section of libraries. And, while the book's hockey content might seem to support that shelving decision, the work's historical focus, however, likely restricts its juvenile audience to just the most ardent of young hockey fans. Older teens and adults who have more seriously followed the game of hockey will likely relate more strongly to the contents of H is for Hockey.
Dave Jenkinson, CM's editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
on this title or this review, send mail to email@example.com.
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