CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 4. . . . October 18, 2002
The art in Heart of the Game was originally a series of acrylic on illustration board paintings created by Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, artist John Newby. Now united with a brief, gentle text, the paintings capture youngsters' innocent enthusiasm and love for the game of hockey, the love being the "heart of the game." There is a delightful play on words in the subtitle for the moments that are captured in the pictures are certainly connected with amateur hockey being played at the minor level, but the moments are also minor in that other sense of the word. Many of the moments are just the little happenings of life that may seem insignificant perhaps to others and yet are important to a youngster: the thrill of donning hockey equipment for the first time, of having a "real" coach, of getting a penalty or scoring a goal, albeit a fluke. As Newby's text says at one point:
This is just a
moment in time -
Newby's Rockwellesque paintings, frozen moments in time, are filled with small details that will provide numerous opportunities for recognition by the book's readers, both young and old. His young players, female as well as male, do not wear generic hockey equipment. Instead, readers see recognizable brand names, the same brands they wear while playing themselves: Cooper pads, Jofa and WinnWell gloves, and Bauer, CCM, and Cooper helmets. There is no continuing plot per se, and each pair of facing pages and the accompanying text usually deal with just one hockey connected moment. For instance, there is the slightly older brother who, dressed for the game, is talking to his younger jean clad brother whose future hockey aspirations are evidenced by his wearing a hockey jersey. A little girl stands before a mirror with her oversized hockey sweater almost touching her skates. A young player, about to enter the penalty box, looks towards an adult referee who is signaling a roughing penalty to the timekeeper. Each of these minor episodes invites expansion by the reader/viewer. For those who do not know hockey terminology, the book closes with a "Glossary of Hockey Terms and Phrases."
Readers who want to go beyond the book (and perhaps purchase reproductions of the book's art) can visit www.john-newby.com where they will find Newby's virtual art gallery, "Memories of Childhood," which he has divided into 10 sub-galleries. Browsing will reveal that the art for Heart of the Game has been drawn from three galleries, Hockey I, Hockey II and Women's & Girl's Ice Hockey. Each painting is titled and carries a brief text. Before teachers expose their students to Newby's website, they could, as a combined art/language arts activity, invite the children to suggest "names/titles" for the book's pictures and then compare their names with those supplied by Newby.
Accompanying promotional material indicates that Stewart House plans to publish two more Newby books "devoted to exploring memories of childhood." Hopefully, the future volumes will avoid the slight glitches which take away a bit from Heart of the Game. Unlike the usual picture/illustrated book situation where illustration and text are created together or someone else's illustrations are later added to an author's text, with Heart of the Game, as noted earlier, the fine art had a previous existence. While an illustrator "knows" about things like gutters, a fine artist does not have to take such concerns into account when creating a piece of art that is likely destined to hang on a wall. Since some of the paintings spill over one page, gutters come into play, and more thoughtful book design might have reduced the three situations where the book's gutters obscure important details (pp. 6-7, 24-25, 28-29). Mismatches between text and illustration details are also to be avoided, and Heart of the Game does so with perhaps one exception. The text of the opening pages (cited in the "excerpt" above) indicates that the child is dressed for a 5 a.m. hockey practice, but the illustration shows his/her bed already made!
In addition to being part of school library collections, Heart of the Game has a place both inthe adult and children's sections of public libraries for parents/grandparents will fondly recall the memories that the book's contents will evoke. Although Heart of the Game is a book for an adult to share with a child, most children will likely also want to spend time alone with the book's illustrations so that they can vicariously add themselves to the happenings.
Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and adolescent literature in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.
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