________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 14 . . . . March 15, 2002

cover The Kid Line.

Teddy Jam. Illustrated by Ange Zhang.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood/Douglas & McIntyre, 2001.
32 pp., cloth, $16.95.
ISBN 0-88899-432-X.

Subject Heading:
Conacher, Charlie, 1909-1967-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 1 and up /Ages 6 and up.

Review by Alison Mews.

**** /4


Big Train was my father's favorite player. Big Train Lionel Conacher and his brother Charlie who played for the Leafs.

The Conacher brothers, when they were boys, went to Jesse Ketchum Public School. So did my father after them. He played hockey and football with them and talked about how it was to have gotten run over by Big Train when he was only nine years old and about how getting run over by Big Train was like getting driven over by a cement truck even then, or so my father said.

After the Conacher brothers finished at Jesse Ketchum they became professional athletes, and my father could read their names in the papers. After my father finished school he started as an apprentice to a bricklayer, like his father, and he worked on Maple Leaf Gardens, which is where Charlie Conacher became a big star and led the league in scoring two times.

While Charlie Conacher was getting famous, my father built more buildings. After that he went to the war and he came back. My mother used to say the war had knocked my father off his tracks. Like he'd gotten hit by a Big Train, I used to think.

By the time I got old enough to know what my father did, what he did was sell tickets outside Maple Leaf Gardens on game night. I would go with him.

Using the pseudonym Teddy Jam, Matt Cohen wrote many wonderful children's books. This lovely picture book is his last, written shortly before his death in 1999. It is a celebration of the glory days of hockey and of Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens. But more, it is a poignant portrait of a young boy's hockey-loving father, whose stint in the war changed him forever. The boy (unnamed) tells of his hero worship of the legendary Conacher brothers and then describes the fantastic night when he and his father join Charlie Conacher to watch a game in the Gardens. The same night, he has an incredible dream in which he is playing hockey with the Leafs, and he scores on the Boston Bruins, assisted by both Charlie and his father. The story then advances in time to when he takes his daughter skating with his elderly father. At the conclusion of the book, the Gardens are closed, but his rich memories have a life of their own.

     Ange Zhang, who illustrated two other stories by Teddy Jam, here provides beautifully expressive paintings that match the quiet intensity of the writing. Using broad brush strokes, he perfectly captures the energy of the hockey players, especially that of the young boy as, with absolute concentration, he speeds across the park rink. Both pictures and text are filled with small details that recreate the time period, and both reveal the love this family shares. The painting of the father sitting motionless on the front steps in his uniform while the mother and young boy observe him sadly through the door is heart-wrenching in its statement of how men returned from the war irreparably changed. Careful attention has also been given to the design, starting with the end papers in Leaf blue. From the opening image of the young boy skating to the final image of his young daughter skating, the cycle of life is reinforced.

Highly recommended.

Alison Mews is the librarian of the Curriculum Materials Centre in the Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.

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

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364