________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 12 . . . . February 17, 2006


Gretzky's Game.

Mike Leonetti. Illustrated by Greg Banning.
Vancouver, BC: Raincoast Books, 2005.
32 pp., cloth., $21.95.
ISBN 1-55192-851-5.

Subject Headings:
Gretzky, Wayne, 1961- -Juvenile fiction.
Edmonton Oilers (Hockey team)-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Lorraine Douglas.

**** /4


During the summer I drank lots of milk and took my vitamins. I also played a lot of street hockey and worked on my shot. I grew a little taller and heavier and made the select team early in the fall. I was no longer afraid of going in front of the net, just like Gretzky had done in the finals. In the first game of the season I had a chance to score on a breakaway. I skated hard like Gretzky always did and the big defenseman trying to stop my rush couldn't catch me. The goalie went for a fake and I went around him before putting a shot into the net. It was the kind of goal Wayne Gretzky would score. If I keep working on my game just like Gretzky does, I might win the Stanley Cup one day too!


Ryan is a young hockey player who is small for his age but determined to win a place on a select team, the Oil Kings. He practises with his dad outside on their home rink and hones his skills just like his hero, Wayne Gretzky, did when he was growing up in Brampton, ON. Ryan is keeping a scrapbook on Gretzky, and any time he feels that he can't accomplish something, he takes out the scrapbook for inspiration. When Ryan goes for his tryout, he earns a spot as the third or fourth centre, and he is thrilled because centre is the same position Gretzky plays for the Edmonton Oilers. Ryan and his father follow all the action in the 1984 Stanley Cup playoffs, and the Edmonton Oilers defeat the New York Islanders in an exciting series. A biographical note at the end of the book adds information on Gretzky's early years and hockey career.

internal art

     As in his earlier Number Four Bobby Orr (Raincoast, 2003), Leonetti's formula is to create an appealing book about a young boy and his hockey role model. The story is unbridled fan worship, but, at the same time, the format and easy to read style will make this another very popular book. The full colour paintings by Greg Banning, who also did the covers for Roy McGregor's “Screech Owls” series, are very nicely rendered and different from the cozy folk art style of the paintings done by Sean Thompson for Leonetti's My Leafs Sweater (Raincoast, 1998). Here, the orange, blue and white colours of the Edmonton's Oilers pre-1990's home jerseys dominate in many illustrations, and Gretzky's image appears in many places including Ryan's curtains and even on the cereal box! Banning is able to capture excellent likenesses of Gretzky, Messier and the other players, like goalie Grant Fuhr, and Ryan is shown with all the exuberance of a young boy. Some of the words on the page are emphasized and appear in a large bold font which contrasts with the sans serif font. This attractive and enthusiastic story is sure to score with young readers.

Highly Recommended.

Lorraine, who lives in Sidney, BC, is retired from working in children's and youth services at the Winnipeg Public Library. She played league hockey for several years and the only similarity between her and Wayne is that she also had a backyard rink.

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

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