CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 12. . . . February 14, 2003
It was a lousy week. Instead of playing street hockey on half of the parking lot as they usually did, or making snow forts in the big drifts like everyone else was doing, a bunch of guys with Bill at their helm seemed determined to make life miserable for Alex, constantly attacking him. They jeered him in class; they taunted him in the hall, they bothered him on the school ground. Feet or sticks suddenly appeared in front of him or between his legs so that he was constantly tripping and falling. He felt clumsy, his body bruised and sore.
Feeling like a foozle in the classroom was bad enough. Actually it was even worse outside. There was a no snowballs rule for the playground, yet Alex was peppered by them whenever he appeared. He learned fast. After that first time, he always made swerving dashed instead of walking a straight line, and he always made sure he had a destination. When he arrived in the morning, he scoured the schoolyard carefully before he jumped off the bus, often right on the heels of the person in front of him.
Even Max noticed. One morning he took him aside. "What's the matter, Alex? You afraid of something? Not the snow!" In spite of the kidding tone, he must have sensed Alex's troubles. He went out of his way to be kind, often talking to him, and sometimes even going into the school building so he could accompany Alex off the bus.
Alex learned to dawdle. He who used to be first up at bat in the spring because he was always the first one out at recess, became a master at wasting time. During his breaks everything took place in slow motion. His books were put away at a snail's pace. He checked several times whether things inside his desk were in just the right place - textbooks on the right, ruler and pencil crayons in between, pens and pencils up front. Everything had to be just so. That done, he joined the long line at the drinking fountain. He took forever in the washroom, locking himself into a cubicle if he could. His hands were washed very properly and every bit of skin dried with special care. Sometimes he actually didn't get out on the playground at all in spite of teachers urging him to hurry up and get some fresh air.
Ice Attack is the second book in the "Sports Stories" series by Lorimer that I have read. Like the first book, A Goal in Sight, this is an interesting story with many subplots. Beatrice Vandervelde, like Jacqueline Guest, included a variety of threads with the basic hockey theme.
The story revolves around two friends, Alex and Bill, who are in Grade Seven and who both play for the Lakers hockey team. Bill is the captain of the team. The action, the description of the games, the coach, and the team spirit are portrayed in a realistic way. Hockey fans would enjoy reading the book for the game alone.
As the story progresses, the friendship between the boys is at risk. With his family, Alex has moved to a sheep farm in the country. Bill is changing toward Alex and is leading the team in subtle and not so subtle ways in tormenting Alex. It comes to the point that Alex considers leaving the team. When Bill slips on the ice and breaks his ankle, Alex thinks that he will continue now that he doesn't have to contend with Bill on the team. Alex's mom invites Bill to stay with them for two weeks when Bill's parents are on a ski trip. Alex is crushed. What can he do? This struggle brings the boys back into contact, and their problems are resolved.
One of the subplots comes from the problem that Alex has in getting into town from the farm. He has to catch the bus and rarely makes it in to the informal practices. He feels that he is not as close to the other team members as he was previously. Also, from this farming theme, the author brings in the idea that everyone has to help to make the farm profitable and everything must have a practical value. Alex considers that, if he had a horse, he could go into town, but, because a horse is not needed for the farm, it is not an option.
Another of the subplots relates to Alex's being smaller in stature than the rest of his associates. He struggles with his lack of growth. Some of the teams have girls playing with them, but this theme is only mentioned and not developed.
With the resolution of the problem between Alex and Bill, Bill identifies that he has been negative toward Alex because he is resentful that Alex seems to have a loving, stable family. It comes out that Bill's parents have been struggling with their relationship after Bill's mom starts her own business. As Bill's dad has been leaving and returning several times over the preceding months, Bill has taken out his frustration on Alex. With the climax, when Alex confronts Bill about his staying at the farm, Bill says he has no choice. This trip is a chance for his parents to have some much needed time together. Alex understands, and the boys regain their friendship although not at the same level as previously. The resolution is done in a realistic way suitable for characters in this age group.
Hints were given throughout the novel about the parental breakup, but Beatrice Vandervelde handled this topic in a most appropriate way. It was well stated but not in a judgmental fashion. It was believable. Also, the way in which Alex's teammates treated him was handled very well. Alex tries to handle his problems alone, but he does have adults with whom he can share his thoughts.
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 who like realistic fiction plus general readers who like human interest stories about teenagers. Although hockey provides the book's framework, the title, Ice Attack, refers both to the game and the relationship between the two main characters. The appropriately titled chapter indicate the direction of the story. The chapters were an acceptable length for the intended audience group and beyond.
Deborah Mervold is a teacher-librarian and a Grade 12 English teacher at W.P. Sandin Composite High School, a grade 5 to 12 school in Shellbrook, SK.
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other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.