CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 17 . . . . April 25, 2003
Can there ever be enough hockey stories for Canadian children? This new title from award-winning author David Bouchard is a welcome addition to the genre. In picture book format, it is accessible to very young children who may just be beginning to play in the tyke and novice divisions of minor hockey. Focused on the joys of old-fashioned street hockey, it covers an aspect of the game that other hockey stories have not.
Etienne’s cousin comes to visit him on his farm during the winter. The two, depicted as about ten or eleven years old, spend all day playing road hockey rural style. The story is told, as a memoir, in the voice of the visiting cousin. The following excerpt gives a good sense of the action and joie de vivre inherent in this book:
While this is a departure from Bouchard’s earlier works (re-tellings of Chinese folk literature, west coast Canada settings), it is similar in its intent to tell a distinctly Canadian story and the strong quality of the writing.
Illustrator Dean Griffiths captures the action in his lively tempura wash realistic cartoon images. While consistent with the text, the content of the illustrations also adds much to enrich the book. The outdoor winter Canadian landscape is particularly well presented. The dress of the children, the muted (but still attractive) colours, the preponderance of Rocket Richard’s number 9 Montreal Canadiens hockey sweater, and the details of the inside of the house where Etienne and his cousin sip hot chocolate after their day of road hockey, clearly identify the temporal (1950s / 1960s) and geographical (rural prairie provinces) settings of this story. Doing this through illustration rather than text is a particularly effective way to share this information with younger children. Finally, it is the illustrations and the illustrations alone which convey the sub-theme of the story: Etienne’s cousin is a girl! As a middle-aged woman who is just beginning to play organized hockey, I was delighted, as I am sure many young girls (and their mothers and grandmothers) will also be, to find my experience and hockey dreams reflected in this story.
Well bound and beautifully printed (even the placement of the type on the pages mirrors the action of the story), this book is aesthetically appealing and durable enough to withstand heavy classroom and library use. The size of the illustrations and length of the text make it suitable for both group sharing and individual reading. Sure to inspire many a road hockey game, coupled with a hockey stick and an old tennis ball, it would also make a great gift for a child.
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