________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 7 . . . . November 21, 2008

cover Wendel and the Great One.

Mike Leonetti. Illustrated by Greg Banning.
Toronto, ON: North Winds Press/Scholastic Canada, 2008.
30 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
ISBN 978-0-545-99029-5.

Subject Headings:
Clark, Wendel, 1966- -Juvenile fiction.
Gretzky, Wayne, 1961- -Juvenile fiction.
Hockey stories, Canadian (English).

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

*** /4


When my dad picked me up after practice, I told him the news.

"Wow, David. It's a great honour to be voted captain of the team." he said.

"I know, but what does a captain do? How am I supposed to act? What should I say in the locker room? How do I lead?" I asked.

"Slow down, David," he said. "You should probably do some research on other captains. You can always learn by watching the best."

Dad was right. Watching captains in the NHL was sure to help me learn to become a better leader. In fact, my two favourite players were captains. One was Wendel Clark of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The other was the player I admired the most: Wayne Gretzky of the Los Angeles Kings.


Saying that an author employs a formula in his/her writing is usually assumed to be a putdown, but when I apply that term to Leonetti's writing, I am using it in the most positive sense. The formula that Leonetti uses, one which has been seen in his books like Number Four, Bobby Orr and A Hero Named Howe, is that of taking an "everyboy" child, giving him a hockey-related problem to solve, and then connecting the lad to a significant moment or player from the world of NHL hockey.

internal art

     Set in the 1992-93 hockey year, Wendel and the Great One sees David being elected captain of his hockey team, the Raiders. While pleased at wearing the captain's "C" on his sweater, David is concerned about knowing what it is that he is to do in that role. Though Coach Graves assigns David the immediate task of making Nikolai, a newcomer to Canada, feel that he is part of the team, David goes on his own quest to identify the qualities that a leader is to have. When David asks his teacher, Mrs. Sartor, for her help, she sees a "teachable" moment and suggests, "Why don't you do your report about great Canadian leaders?" David's research leads him to various Canadian figures from a variety of fields, and, in response to her question, "Did this [project] help you?" he responds, "I learned a lot about the skills a leader needs. I really think it'll help me be a good captain." His words, however, sound a little bit too much like a student telling his teacher what she wants to hear, especially when, while David was identifying what the great Canadians did, he did not always make clear the qualities of leadership that these people demonstrated.

     The Raiders' season ends with their losing in the finals, but David has continued to learn about leadership while observing the behaviours of the opposing teams' captains throughout the season. David receives another opportunity to see team captains in action when he and his father attend the Stanley Cup semifinals in Toronto, a series featuring David's favourite team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are playing the Los Angeles Kings, with each team being captained by one of the two players found in the book's title. Through the seven game series which David sees in person and on tv, he does gain an increased understanding of the variety of roles a captain must play on his hockey team. Longtime adult hockey fans who encounter the book will read between the lines and be amused when David admires how "Wendel stood up for Gilmour after he was checked roughly" at the end of game and how Wendel "came to his teammate's defence." These hockey-savvy individuals will recognize that the Wendel's support was not solely of the verbal variety.

     The book's conclusion sees David looking ahead.

"Next year I'm going to be a better captain. I'll just remind myself of how Wendel and The Great One, and all those amazing Canadians, have shown us to be great leaders!"

     As was the case with Banning's earlier collaborations with Leonetti, Banning's full-page illustrations, which alternate with Leonetti's text pages, are superb and will play a significant part in attracting young readers to Wendel and the Great One. Whether Banning is illustrating a locker room filled with boys doffing/donning their hockey equipment or capturing the crunching bodycheck of a pair of NHL players, he is dead-on. His representations of bodies and faces accurately capture both the moments' movement and emotions.

     The book's final page provides a brief biography of both Wendel Clark and Wayne Gretzky. A further useful addition to the book's conclusion would have been a guide to all the famous Canadians leaders found in the illustration on p. 15.

     Though Banning's juveniles look to be in the 10-13 age range, because of the book's subject matter, older readers, especially those who are reluctant readers, might be enticed to pick up Wendel and the Great One


Dave Jenkinson, who lives in Winnipeg, MB, is CM's editor.

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

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