CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 11 . . . .February 4, 2005
Brady Brady had played only a few periods of hockey when his publisher, Stoddart, went out of business, but now he and his fellow Icehogs are back on the ice with their own publishing house, Brady Brady Inc. As in the earlier Stoddart volumes, Brady and his teammates are dealing with matters than loom large in the minds of young children. In Brady Brady and the Big Mistake, Brady, without permission, borrows his father's treasured possession, a puck autographed by the legendary Bobby Orr. While it was initially only Brady's intention to show the puck to his friends, it becomes the one they use in a game of shinny on Brady's backyard rink. Unfortunately, Brady's wrist shot flies over the net, and the puck disappears into a huge snowbank. Everyone searches for the puck but with no success, and, when Brady's father comes home, the young lad must confess what he has done. Although Brady's father does express some disappointment in his son's initial action, he expresses his pride in Brady's "telling me the truth about what happened." While the text doesn't say so directly, the book has a happy ending for Temple's closing illustration shows Hatrick, Brady's dog, standing in his doghouse, the missing puck clamped in his jaws.
Next to buying a house or a car, likely the next largest cost to a parent is having a child playing hockey. That financial cost, from the child's perspective, becomes the subject matter of Brady Brady and the Great Exchange. Brady has noticed that Gregory always stays behind in the dressing room as all the other Icehogs take to the ice. Brady just attributes Gregory's behaviour to its being a superstition in the same fashion that Brady always had to be the first one at the rink or that Chester always ate popcorn before games. However, one day when Brady returns to the dressing room to retrieve a forgotten item, he discovers the real reason for Gregory's lagging behind: "My skates don't fit me any more and my parents can't buy me new ones right now. It hurts to skate." Brady comes up with both an immediate and a long term solution, the latter being "the biggest equipment exchange ever!" Held in Brady's backyard rink, the exchange is a success for all, not just Gregory.
Being a child is largely about becoming because so much of life is ahead of you, rather than behind. And, while playing hockey is, in itself, fun, there are moments that seem to be more significant than others. In the case of Brady and his fellow Icehogs, the next significant event is "the biggest hockey tournament of the season, the Gold Stick." In Brady Brady and the Most Important Game, the Icehogs meet the Dragoons in the final game of the tournament. The Dragoons play a dirty brand of hockey, and their coach, intent on winning, "played his best players most of the game. Some Dragoons did not get to play at all." On the other hand, the Icehogs' coach said, "We made it here as a team, and everyone on the team will play." The schoolyard chant, "Cheaters never prosper," is not confirmed as the Dragoons win and the Icehogs head to the dressing room where "tears rolled down several Icehogs' faces." However, their coach is not disappointed and commends them for how hard they played to get to the final game. While the message he delivers to his young players is absolutely valid, it is perhaps too didactically worded: "And if you learn only one thing in your hockey lives, remember this, it's more important to lose fairly, than to win by cheating." Like all of the Brady Brady books, this one has a happy ending with the Icehogs' moms and dads playing against their children in a fun game.
While each Brady Brady volume can stand alone as a separate read, children who have read (or had read to them) earlier books in the series will be able to bring some greater understandings to later books. For example, if before reading Brady Brady and the Most Important Game, children have encountered Brady Brady and the Singing Tree, they will recognize the significance of Tree's singing the anthem before the opening game of the Gold Stick tournament while those who have met Brady Brady and the Runaway Goalie will immediately understand why, following the Icehogs' learning that they were to play the Dragoons, "Brady tied Chester's skates together so that he couldn't run away."
Temple's bright cartoon-style illustrations not only complement Shaw's text but appropriately extend it, especially in his addition of little details, such as the pucks' black scuff marks on the rink's boards both in Brady Brady and the Great Exchange and Brady Brady and the Big Mistake or the unlit/lit streetlights which subtly indicate the passage of time as the children search for the puck in Brady Brady and the Big Mistake. As well, Temple's facial expressions on his characters reinforce the emotions described in the text, and his occasional use of Hatrick as emotional counterpoint is effective. For example, on the cover of Brady Brady and the Big Mistake, Brady can be seen poised before his father's puck, a look of uncertainty on his face, while Hatrick looks out at the readers in such a doleful fashion that readers can almost anticipate that something bad is going to happen. As noted earlier, Temple also uses the closing illustration to tie up the books' contents. However, for young readers, perhaps the final illustration in Brady Brady and the Most Important Game may be the most challenging for them to understand. In the foreground, the Icehogs and their parents are obviously having fun playing against each other, the children having already seemingly forgotten their loss. The background reveals the parentless, winning Dragoons, with sad looks on their faces, sitting in the stands, their trophy and equipment stacked up. Given that Shaw's text had said that, during the game, "Brady could see the Dragoons fans in the stands whistling and screaming at the top of their lungs," the adults' absence at this point is difficult to comprehend.
Nonetheless, these three "Brady Brady" titles are well worth being added to home collections and libraries serving preschool and early years children.
Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and adolescent literature in the Faculty of
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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.