________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 5 . . . .October 27, 2006


The Hockey Tree.

David Ward. Illustrated by Brian Deines.
Toronto, ON: North Winds Press/Scholastic Canada, 2006.
32 pp., cloth., $19.99.
ISBN 0-439-95619-6.

Subject Headings:
Hockey stories, Canadian (English).

Kindergarten-grade 4 / Ages 5-9.

Review by Valerie Nielsen.

*** /4



Owen woke early on the first day of hockey. The water on Humboldt Lake had finally frozen and now it was open for skating.


These days, that "first day of hockey" is more likely to occur in August at a hockey camp. Kids start playing long before freeze-up and keep at it well after spring thaw. Frozen lakes and sloughs and back yard rinks have given way to community club ice where carefully selected teams and tightly scheduled practices and games are the order of the day. The Hockey Tree, though set in the present, harks back to an earlier time when the game was played with less supervision and more spontaneity.

internal art     Out on the lake, Owen's sister makes a slap shot and loses their only puck down an ice-fishing hole. It could mean the end of the game, but Dad knows just what to do. Glancing at the poplar-ringed lake, he leads the children on a search for the perfect "hockey tree". When Owen spots the right kind of tree - newly dead and with a trunk as big around as a puck - his father whips out his saw and produces first one, then several "prairie pucks" Will the wooden pucks work? Owen is doubtful, but after Dad immerses them in the icy water of the fishing hole, a couple of minutes in the bone-chilling Saskatchewan air freezes them hard. With pucks a-plenty, the game can and does continue with eager youngsters arriving throughout the afternoon to play shinny with Owen's family on Humboldt Lake.

      David Ward is a Vancouver author who has written “The Mask Trilogy,” a series of fantasy adventure stories for young people. At the end of The Hockey Tree, his first picture book, he mentions hearing stories about skating in the early 1920's in Saskatchewan near Humboldt Lake. He names two Stanley Cup champions, Tony Leswick and Glenn Hall, who have skated on this very lake " — perhaps with a frozen poplar puck. In Canada, wherever there is a puck and an expanse of ice, there is hockey."

      Brian Deines is an acclaimed artist and photographer who has illustrated many children's books, including Roy MacGregor's Forever: The Annual Hockey Classic, Caribou Song and Dragonfly Kites, with the last title being a nominee for a Governor General's literary award for illustration in 2002. Deines is as gifted at depicting characters as he is at evoking setting. Detailed drawings of the characters in The Hockey Tree will inspire young readers' empathy while his luminous oil paintings of mid-winter in Saskatchewan are bound to provoke shivers among readers of all ages.

      The Hockey Tree is a gentle, story with a minimum of plot and conflict and a maximum of nostalgia-tinted warmth. The subject and illustrations, as well as the brevity of this picture book, will make it attractive to independent readers in the primary grades. As a read-aloud, it should work well for the under-seven group, with particular appeal to readers and listeners, young or old, who have an appreciation for our national game.


A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in St. Norbert, MB.

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

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