________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 8 . . . . December 7, 2007


Maple Leafs A-Z.

Mike Leonetti. Illustrated by Greg Banning.
Vancouver, BC: Raincoast Books, 2007.
32 pp., hardcover, $21.95.
ISBN 978-1-55192-806-7.

Subject Headings:
Toronto Maple Leafs (Hockey team)-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Hockey players-Ontario-Toronto-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Toronto Maple Leafs (Hockey team)-History-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5 and up / Ages 10 and up.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

***½ /4


#22 V is for ... Rick Vaive

Rick Vaive was named Leafs captain when he was only 22 years old.

The leafs knew they might be getting a potential star when they acquired Rick Vaive from the Vancouver Canucks in 1980. The right winger did not disappoint. Vaive scored in his first game with the Leafs, and he never stopped putting his lethal shot into the opposition net for as long as he played in Toronto.

An outgoing and charismatic player, Vaive was clearly the star of the team in the early eighties and was team captain between 1981 and 1986. He will forever be remembered as the first Leafs player to score 50 goals in one season. Vaive scored 50 or more goals for the Leafs when they were a struggling team.

The biggest challenge with Maple Leafs A-Z will be finding its audience. While I did suggest Grades 5 and up, that determination was made solely on the basis that readers of that age could certainly handle the book’s text, but I really think that, apart from a few rabid juvenile Leaf fans, this “alphabet book” likely would find a more responsive audience if it were shelved in the adult section of a public library. The book might also be read by the parents and grandparents of school children who happen to bring Maple Leafs A-Z home from their school libraries. My principal reason for suggesting that the book might find a better audience amongst adults is that, with the exception of Mats Sundin, none of the book’s other players are part of today’s Leafs team. Consequently, present-day youngsters may perceive Maple Leafs A-Z simply as being a history book, albeit a well-illustrated one.

     Each page is devoted to one letter of the alphabet, and with one exception (P which has two players, Bob Pulford and Joe Primeau), that page presents a single player. The text consists of the player’s sweater number and the statement, “[the appropriate letter] is for... [the player’s name]” The focus letter of the alphabet is not always the first letter of a player’s given or surname, and so readers will see, for example, that E is represented by Ted KEnnedy, I by KIng Clancy, and Q by JacQues Plante. Leonetti’s use of letters outside initial letters means readers can’t go to the correct place in the alphabetical order to see if their favourite Leaf has been included.

     The rest of the text for each letter consists of a one-sentence teaser, such as “When Darryl Sittler left the Maple Leafs he was the all-time point leader in goals and points” or “One of the best face-off men in the NHL throughout his career, Peter Zezel was an excellent soccer player as a youngster.” The rest of the text, two to four paragraphs in length and housed in a text box, provides the highlights of that person’s career with the Leafs.

     The book’s final two pages, entitled “About the Maple Leafs,” provide a very brief overview of the team’s history and perhaps should have been used to introduce the book rather than to conclude it. Missing from the book is a context in which to understand the individual players’ statistics. For instance, reading that Red Kelly scored 22, 20 and 20 goals in his first three seasons with the Leafs will not sound that impressive to today’s young hockey fan.

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     Greg Banning, who acknowledges drawing “inspiration from the superb photographs of Harold Barkley and Dennis Miles, and photographs from the Hockey Hall of Fame’s outstanding collection,” provides two full-colour illustrations for each player with one normally being an action shot and the other a head and shoulders portrait. Players are sometimes shown wearing both their home and away uniforms and, in other cases, just one form of their gear. As Hap Day was both a player and a coach, he appears in a Leaf uniform and also in his coaching civies. Visually, Maple Leafs A-Z is a most attractive book.

     Any time someone like Leonetti has to make choices about what to include and exclude content-wise, naturally others, including this reviewer, will question the decisions that were made. The alphabet contains some challenging letters, among them Q, X and Z, but why in a book about the Leafs, does Jacques Plante, someone I associate completely with the Montreal Canadiens, become the representative of Q? (OK, to be fair, the only choices with Q as the initial letter were Pat Quinn and Joel Quennville). If P could have two players, why couldn’t B also include one of my favorites, Bob Baun who played 11 seasons with the Leafs, a period during which the team won four Stanley Cups? And why was the hero of the 1972 Russia-Canada hockey series, Paul Henderson, not included along with Leonetti’s choice, Harvey “Busher” Jackson.

     So, with the reservations noted above...

Highly Recommended.

Dave Jenkinson, who lives in Winnipeg, MB, and cheers for the Leafs as long as the Ottawa Senators, the Calgary Flames or the Edmonton Oilers are not their opposition, is CM’s editor.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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