CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 24. . . .February 21, 2014
Gabe (she hates to be called Gabriella) wants the same number as her idol, Hayley Wickenheiser, on her new hockey team, The Spirit. Disappointed, Gabe has to wear number 9 instead of number 22, a situation which leads her to discover several lessons about hockey, life and the power of grandmothers.
There are so many reasons to love this book. The protagonist is a girl who plays hockey. Her grandmother played hockey. Gabe has a signature hockey move. Hayley Wickenheiser, an important part of the story, is the Canadian flag bearer for the 2014 Winter Olympics. And Roy MacGregor knows how to “write hockey.” In a world in which hockey is still predominantly a boy’s game, it’s refreshing to see that in this story, at least, that isn’t the case. MacGregor, best-known among young readers for his “Screech Owl” series, has written an extraordinary picture book that dispels stereotypes while telling a really great story. It’s wonderful that the story is written for an age group where girls are starting their hockey careers, and it’s my hope that, with stories like this, they have careers and hockey is not “something to play for a year or two” and then move on.
The artwork by Geneviève Després is rendered in gouache and is hockey perfection. As can be seen in the details, the illustrator understands the game of hockey. Després’ illustrations are from various perspectives – above, below, face-on – which gives the story authenticity, and the pictures are also accessible to children. Després has taken well-known hockey photos and re-imagined them in her own style.
My favourite part of the book is the ending. The final page is given not to the author, but to the illustrator who has completely captured the essence of the story with a picture of young Gabriella and Grandma Gabriella, standing hand in hand. They are staring up at the arena rafters where the jerseys of their heroes are retired, and where, someday, young Gabriella can imagine that her number will be.
This title will take its place among the best hockey books for kids because of its subject matter, its message and, most of all, because of its story.
Jill Griffith is the Youth Services Manager at Red Deer Public Library in Red Deer, AB.
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