CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 16 . . .December 21, 2012
Among them, Gurtler, Goldsworthy and Pratt have authored the eight titles in the "Canadian Football Teams" series, with Gurtler writing about the Bombers and the Lions, Goldsworthy tackling the Stampeders, Eskimos and Roughriders, and Pratt taking on the remaining three teams, the Alouettes, Argonauts and Tiger-Cats.
Based on the three review copies, it would appear that the content of all of the books in the series is organized in the same way. Sandwiched between an opening contents page and a concluding "Glossary/Index" page, nine two-page "chapters" then deal with the targetted team's history, stadium, jerseys, helmets, coaches, mascots, records (all-time team leaders in most points, games played, touchdowns, passing yards, rushing yards, and receiving yards), legendary players (two in number), and current stars (also just two). These "chapters" are then followed up by an "Unforgettable Moments" page that highlights five or six memorable events in a team's history, such as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers playing for the 1962 Grey Cup in what became known as the Fog Bowl or the Montreal Alouettes winning their first Grey Cup in 1949. The final "text" page consists of five "Brain Teasers" which are simply recall questions related to a book's text. The answers are found in inverted print at the bottom of the page.
Since the books' contents are aimed at an early reading audience, the authors' text sections are quite brief and the sentences are short. Unfortunately, the brevity of the text will also likely leave many young readers with a number of unanswered questions. For example, in the above "excerpt", readers are told that the Bombers came into existence in 1930 and won their first Grey Cup in 1936, but then they are informed that the CFL didn't come into being until 1958. In what league were the Bombers playing prior to 1958? Similarly, readers learn that the Alouette's "logo is a bird rushing with a football." However, the text does not provide the connection between the logo and the team's French name. The books tell when a team got its name, but none of the three books reviewed explained why a team was given the particular name it now bears.
In terms of layout, most of the "chapters" consist of a full-page colour photo that is placed across from the text which provides the chapter's content. Though the photos, many of them frozen action shots, are engaging, some could have been chosen with more care. For example, both the Montreal Alouettes and the Blue Bombers have two team mascots, but, in each case, only one is shown in the photograph. In Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the player shown with Buzz is Khari Jones, someone who hasn't played for Winnipeg since 2004!
Because each of the books uses the specific team's official colours as the background colours, most of the text is rendered in a light white coloured font, and readers are to understand that a word in "bright" white is the equivalent of bold print and signals that the word will be found in that volume's glossary.
In what I assume is an attempt to appeal to a school market, the series includes the aforementioned glossary and index. Given the books' brevity, both of these are not only unnecessary but are poorly done to boot. The glossary's explanation that the West Division is "one group of CFL teams" really doesn't add much to a young football fan's knowledge base. And given how short the books are, creating an index (assuming one was actually necessary) should have been a breeze, and yet, for example, the index for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers has two entries for Milt Stegall but misses a third found on p. 18. Even worse, the index for the Calgary Stampeders volume omitted Allen Pitts entirely despite the fact he holds two team records, most touchdowns and most receiving yards, both noted on p. 17. The 11 term glossary for that same volume even managed to mis-alphabetize Grey Cup, placing it between capacity and facemask.
While the books' contents will undoubtedly appeal to beginning readers, especially those who are CFL fans, the paucity of content, coupled with the transient nature of some of the books' information, suggests that, if the books are being considered for purchase, the cheaper paperback version might be the route to take.
Recommended with reservations.
Dave Jenkinson, CM's editor, lives in the city that the "maybe-next-year" Blue Bombers call home.
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