________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 10. . . . January, 2003

cover A Goal in Sight. (Sports Stories, 56).

Jacqueline Guest.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2002.
113 pp., pbk. & cl., $8.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55028-780-X (pbk.), ISBN 1-55028-779-6 (cl.).

Grades 3-8 / Ages 8-13.

Review by Deborah Mervold.

**** /4


Aiden Walsh timed his strike perfectly. Gripping his hockey stick tightly with both hands, he lined up his target in his sights and went in for the kill. The kid never knew what hit him. The guy hit the boards with a satisfying whump, then went down onto the ice.

The ref's whistle blew before Aiden had taken half a stride.

Aiden didn't bother looking at the ref. He knew he'd drawn a five-minute major for cross checking but he didn't care. He'd taken the Springhill Rangers' lead scorer out. He knew the coach would keep the guy on the bench for a couple of shifts to recover and with so little time left in the game, that's all Aiden's team, the Oakridge devils, would need. They were in the lead and now, they would keep it. The rest of the Rangers were next to useless at goal scoring and posed no threat.

Here in Calgary, Alberta, everyone knew Aiden Walsh was the toughest defenceman in the league and the Devils were winners because of it.

Aiden glided over to the penalty box. He wouldn't have much time once he'd sat out his stupid penalty, but he wanted to nuke one more guy before the end of the game. He scanned the ice for the irritating forward. The kid's jersey advertised him as Walberg 33. He was fast and way too accurate with his shots. The annoying winger was the only remaining Ranger who might be a threat to the Devils' lead.

Walberg had also checked him hard, sending Aiden into the boards and that was something Aiden couldn't let the guy get away with. He had a reputation to uphold. They'd been dicing all game and Aiden wanted to teach the guy a real lesson about messing with the Devils . . . and Aiden Walsh.

The story told in A Goal in Sight is an interesting one because of the many subplots which the author, Jacqueline Guest, has included. The story is about Aiden, a 13-year-old enforcer on the #1 hockey team in Calgary. His dad is the epitome of a "hockey dad" who has secret signals to send to his son when he has made a good hit. Aiden spends more time in the penalty box than playing the game, behavior which seems to be encouraged by the coach. When Aiden takes the fighting into the parking lot and attacks Garth Walberg, he ends up in court. The judge sentences him to 300 hours of community service. The social worker, Michael, assigns Aiden to work with Eric, an unusual child who is blind. The boys spend Saturdays together, doing a variety of activities, including playing hockey with the Calgary Seeing Eye Dogs, a team for blind and sighted players. This partnership allows Eric to see his role as a bully and how it is harmful for others and to himself. He is surprised when the 300 hours has been completed, and he plans to continue his friendship with Eric.

     The themes running through this book are many. The main theme is the growth that Aiden undergoes as he transforms himself from a bully into a more caring teenager. At one point, he has to defend Eric and himself against three older bullies in a tunnel between the mall and the bus terminal. He sees what his victims must have felt like. He also realizes friendship in that Eric needs his help. Alone, he would have outrun the bullies, but Eric is a target.

     A secondary theme is that of bullying being acceptable in hockey. Aiden is an excellent enforcer. His coach wants him to "take out" the opposition. As Aiden begins playing with the blind team, he realizes that he has leadership skills that they look up to and also that he is a player with excellent skills and instincts. He could be scoring the goals. He tries to talk to his coach, but his views are not really considered. When he changes his tactics to only hit as hard as necessary to affect the play and not put the player out of the game, he becomes part of the team, and he becomes a more respected player.

     Another theme is that of a broken family and family abuse. It is clear from the beginning that Aiden's father is a bully. He uses his fists and intimidation to get what he wants. Aiden's mom has left the abusive relationship. She has contact with Aiden through the computer several times a week and then in person on Sunday. She is very supportive of her son. Aiden has been so angry at his mom for leaving that he has chosen to stay with his dad. By the end of the story, Aiden has moved in with his mom, and his dad has agreed to go to counseling for the abusive behavior and for his drinking.

     Jacqueline Guest's book, with its complex themes, is very well written. The themes are woven together in a realistic and understandable way. She doesn't preach but instead allows the story to play out in a believable fashion. Aiden doesn't make a sudden reformation. He changes as he sees it in his best interest to do so. He realizes that his past behavior doesn't make him happy. That realization gives him the courage to make the changes. He sees that positive attention is much better than negative attention.

     The vocabulary and plot development are very acceptable for the target audience. This story would be of interest to a variety of readers from hockey fans to those general readers who like human interest stories about teenagers. Also, the inclusion of the Calgary team for blind players (which is based on a real team) was interesting. The chapter titles were appropriate and well named to show the direction of the story. The chapters were an acceptable length for the intended audience. A Goal in Sight was a good title in that in can be taken two ways, the hockey team's winning a game and the individual's striving for a purpose.

Highly Recommended.

Deborah Mervold is a teacher-librarian and a teacher of grade 12 English teacher at Shellbrook Composite High School, a grade 5-12 school, in Shellbrook, SK.


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ISSN 1201-9364