________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 8. . . .October 26, 2012


Over at the Rink: A Hockey Counting Book.

Stella Partheniou Grasso. Illustrated by Scott Ritchie.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2012.
32 pp., pbk., $7.99.
ISBN 978-1-4431-1374-8.

Subject Headings:
Counting-out rhymes.
Hockey-Juvenile poetry.

Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 3-6.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

** /4



Over at the rink
Where the anthem’s sung,
The whole town gathered
For some hockey fun...

Over at the rink
Beneath the winter sun,
Were the two linesmen
And the referee one.

“Be fair!” called the linesmen.
“I’m fair!” called the one.
So they all blew their whistles
And the game had begun.


Aimed essentially at a preschool audience, Over at the Rink is a concept book that uses a game of hockey being played by two teams of children on an outdoor rink as its vehicle to reinforce young children’s skill at counting from one to ten. With three exceptions, the book’s 13 double-page spreads each carry two four-line verses, with the verses following the rhythm of “Over in the Meadow”, a traditional counting rhyme.

internal art     In a counting book, it is essential that what is to be counted must be clear to the youngster who is to do the counting, and that necessary clarity is not always present in Over at the Rink. For example, in the excerpt above, the second verse first mentions two linesmen and then the one referee. While ignoring the fact that the text has inverted normal number order, to be able to correctly count the two types of officials, a child must bring some degree of hockey knowledge to Ritchie’s illustration and recognize that the referee is the sole official sporting orange-coloured armbands. Another example of lack of clarity (and need for hockey knowledge) occurs on pages 12-13 where the text reads, “Our captain rallied his players five.” If young “readers” don’t realize that, in their counting, they are to exclude the player with the C on his jersey, their final count will be six, not the expected five. On the next pair of pages, “McNevin drove a shot past the visitors six”, but just five yellow clad players can be seen in full, with only the gloved arm of the sixth being visible. Very young “counters” may have difficulty in recognizing that an arm represents a whole player. The next two pairs of facing pages call for the counters to recognize and then exclude someone (“a sharp talent scout” and “the biggest fan”). And, if they don’t, they’ll again end up with one too many in their final count. I would question whether young readers will recognize that a person with a clipboard is a talent scout (and not one of the “reporters seven”) or that the person in the crowd wearing a team sweater makes him “the biggest fan”. Similarly, readers are to understand that “the old-timers ten” are the spectators wearing similar sweaters. Where Over at the Rink entirely departs from its “counting” purpose occurs with the number nine where the text, in part, reads “Our coach called / To player number nine.” On the two pages connected to this number, there is nothing to count, and, even if a youngster did assume that all the figures on the two pages are to be counted, they only total eight.

     According to a note on the copyright page, “The art for this book was created using pencil and ink. This was scanned into the computer where all the colouring was done.” Scot Ritchie uses a cartoon style which is most appropriate for the book’s light contents, and the two teams consist of both boys and girls, with the players and fans representing Canada’s racial diversity. Ritchie’s art frames the story nicely, with the dedication page carrying an illustration of two children shovelling the snow off the rink’s surface, and the closing page revealing a lone figure who is flooding the rink’s surface in the evening. The book’s final verse says:

Over at the rink
Another game’s done.
Everybody to the ice
For some skating fun!

     And it’s accompanied by an overhead shot that shows young and old, novice and expert, out for a recreational skate on this community resource.

      If Over at the Rink is treated as just a fun read, then it’s an OK book, but, as a counting book, it fall short, especially for the younger end of its intended audience.

Recommended with reservations.

Dave Jenkinson, CM editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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