CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 6 . . . . November 10, 2005
Misconduct. (Sports Stories, 72).
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2004.
107 pp., pbk. & cl., $8.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55028-854-7 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55028-855-5 (cl.).
Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.
Review by Marina Cohen.
August in Lakeside, Ontario, is a time when most kids head to the beaches to swim or toss Frisbees and footballs. Some simply stretch out on towels and turn into fried zombies.
Then there are the hockey players. Kids like me who bust their butts in a cold arena for a whole month. Each morning we drag ourselves out of bed to make camp on time, and at the end of the day we drag ourselves home dead tired. Why do we do this? It's fun. Also, it's to get in shape for September tryouts.
Mathew Gander, known to his friends as Goose, is like many other young Canadians—he eats, sleeps and drinks hockey! In August, instead of the usual summer activities, Goose attends Pee Wee hockey camp. He is desperate to improve his game in order to move up a level and earn a spot on the rep hockey team.
It is during these grueling workouts that Goose has the misfortune of encountering Dillon McPhail, an extremely talented hockey player and relentless bully who has recently moved to Lakeside, ON, from Toronto. After a few heated exchanges on the ice, Goose winds up the hapless target of Dillon's unchecked aggression. Goose is relieved when camp finally ends and he can be rid of the bully for good.
When school begins in September, much to his dismay, Goose discovers he has a new grade six classmate—Dillon! But this is quite a different Dillon, one who suddenly considers Goose his friend and is unwavering in his determination to make Goose his partner in crime.
Both boys attend hockey tryouts, and Goose, now on the same team as Dillon, begins to benefit from the better player's assistance. Dillon, a dirty player, manages to convince Goose to hook his best friend, Jason, during a skating drill. Jason is sent flying, and Goose is able to overtake him. It is with bittersweet satisfaction that Goose learns he has made the rep team, beating out Jason for the spot.
At school, Dillon also draws Goose into his mean and disruptive antics, thereby alienating the duo from the other students and landing them both in the principal's office!
After Goose watches a hockey game in which a player is seriously injured, his conscience finally kicks in full force. He realizes the gravity and consequences of his misconduct and resolves that he must end the friendship that has led him down this negative path.
Misconduct is written in the first person from Goose's point of view, thereby giving the reader insight into a character who is inwardly struggling. On one hand, he must learn to stand up to a bully. On the other, he must listen to his conscience and set things right.
The dialogue is credible, and the hockey terminology and lingo each add to the integrity of the text. Though the plot is fairly predictable, Misconduct moves at a quick pace, much like a puck zipping across the ice. It only slows occasionally when bits and pieces of a sub-plot involving Goose and a girl friend, Kassy, surface.
The underlying theme of bullying is not only a relevant topic in today's society, but it is unfortunately a very real problem many children face firsthand. Beverly Scudamore has, therefore, provided not only an enjoyable novel, but one that may be used as a springboard to help children deal with this increasingly troubling issue.
Research has demonstrated the many challenges of engaging young males in fictional text. Misconduct, chock-full of action-packed hockey scenes and hockey humour, is certain to grab hold of even reluctant readers.
Nitro was explosive in the face-off. He slammed the puck out of the circle to Chen. Two lions closed in on Chen. In response, he fired the puck to me. I picked it up and began stick-handling up the boards. I heard the crowd cheering me on … or wait—it was the coach shouting at me.
Marina Cohen is currently on Maternity Leave from the York Region District School Board, ON, where she has been teaching for 10 years.
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