CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 2 . . . . September 16, 2005
In Deflection, Bill Swan captures the excitement, confusion and frustration of being a young person while, at the same time, managing to tell an exhilarating story about a hockey team. The main character is Jake Henry who plays for the Bear Claws, the local house-league hockey team. As the Bear Claws skate and shoot their way through the hockey season, Jake learns to appreciate his family, to develop his hockey skills, and to be proud of his friends unconditionally.
Jake certainly has an interesting and very supportive family. At the beginning of the story, he finds his family arrangement to be strange and slightly embarrassing. He lives with his mother and his stepfather, Fred. His biological father lives about three hours away, and, despite the distance, he tries to be a part of Jake’s life. Jake has three grandfathers; two are biological, and one is a step-grandfather. These three men, Grandpa Ron, Grandpa P.J. and Grandpa Cowbells, create much of the great comic element in the book as they guide and encourage Jake. Many readers may be able to identify with Jake’s embarrassment when Grandpa Ron repeats constantly his stories of going to school with Bobby Hull. Also embarrassing is the way in which Jake’s whole family, especially Grandpa Cowbells, cheer and make noise during his hockey games. It is when Grandpa Cowbells is unable to attend a game that Jake realizes how much he and his whole team count on the support of all of their families, especially Grandpa Cowbells. Altogether, these characters make for a compelling story.
Jake’s hockey skills rapidly develop during the season. In large part, this development is due to the attention of his grandfathers. They understand Jake’s passion for the sport, and they try to nurture it in many ways. In fact, it is Grandpa Ron who stands up for Jake when Jake refuses to attend a family reunion because of a conflict with an important hockey tournament on that same weekend. Grandpa Ron and Grandpa P.J. are both hockey players as well as fans, and so they often take the time to offer suggestions to Jake. At the beginning of the book, Jake and his friends are fairly dismissive of these tips, but, towards the end of the book, Jake and his friends start to listen, with great results. Jake’s grandfathers are very proactive about helping the team:
Some of the help that Jake receives is unexpected. Grandpa Cowbells, despite his amazing enthusiasm, does not actually play hockey. However, he gives Jake fiddle lessons, something which Jake learns to appreciate in several ways because the fiddle lessons actually help him with his hockey skills. The fiddle lesson scenes are touching and realistic.
Dana Eagles-Daley is a Special Education Teacher and Yoga Instructor in Ottawa, ON.
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other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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.