________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 10 . . . . January 11, 2008

cover

The Enforcer. (Sports Stories).

Bill Swan.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2007.
136 pp., pbk. & hc., $8.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 1-55028-979-4 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55028-981-7 (hc.).

Grades 3-8 / Ages 8-13.

Review by Lindsay Schluter.

***½  /4

excerpt:

I glanced at the clock – twenty-nine seconds left. At the bench, P.J. was signaling me to come off.

The puck dropped to the ice at centre and headed toward me.

It was decision time. Should I continue to the bench, hoping the puck would miss the net and be called icing? That would bring the face-off back to the Cougars end.

Lars had turned and was using his full speed to head for the puck. I was way out of my net. If Lars beat me to it, the game was over.

I skated flat out to centre ice, racing Lars to the puck. I beat him, but just barely.

I got the puck at our blue line. I pulled it away from Lars. As hard as I could, I fired the puck to Jamie, who was just coming out of the Cougars zone. Then I sprinted to the bench. I didn’t look back.

Willie jumped on for the extra attacker. I didn’t take time to look until the bench gate had closed behind me.

Jamie had picked up my pass. He headed in, deked around one defense, then another. He shot from the top of the face-off circle.

It was a hard, rising shot. The Cougars’ goalie caught it with his left shoulder. It bounced high, turning over and over in the air.

By this time Willie was there. Before the puck even hit the ice, Willie slapped it hard, at ankle level, just out of the crease.

He scored! The score was tied 4-4.

 

It is three weeks into the hockey season, and although the Zamboni has barely even awakened from its hibernation, The Roofers can envision a championship win. Thirteen-year-old Jake and his teammates are on fire, having never lost a game – but when Coach Rajah announces that he’s leaving, The Roofers suddenly lose all confidence. Rajah assures the team that they have what it takes to carry on without him – even if they were coached by the next guy who walks in the door.  Almost as if on cue, Jake’s Grandpa P.J. makes a timely entrance, and without much in the way of an alternative, the league decides to hire P.J. as the team’s new head coach.

     Having played hockey all his life, P.J. is a well-seasoned veteran, but at the team’s very first practice, Jake’s worst nightmares come true. Grandpa P.J. brings an old-school perspective to the game, and instead of running positional plays or rehearsing face-off drills, the players find themselves in a back-to-basics boot camp, practicing their skating skills, and even learning how to hold a hockey a stick. When the team’s star player gets fed up with playing like rookies, Jake struggles to hold his team together while, at the same time, trying not to stomp all over his grandfather’s feelings. But as the season’s most pivotal game inches closer and closer, this task seems a near impossible one, with everything on the line, and not one second to lose.

     From the very first chapter, Bill Swan’s sequel to Deflection! is fast paced, action packed, and oh-so-Canadian. The novel’s main character, Jake, is but a young Bobby Orr, or Eric Lindros -- and being from small-town Ontario, its not hard to imagine Jake as the next big hockey legend.  Young Canadian readers will undoubtedly be able to see themselves reflected in the novel’s pages, and with mention of Canada’s liquid gold – “Timmy’s coffee” – they may even be reminded of a familiar, homey aroma.

     Targeted towards the reluctant male reader, Swan’s latest novel is perfectly crafted and brilliantly paced. As the story is told via a first person narrative, readers are thrown into the action as if wearing ice skates themselves, and with play-by-play commentary that challenges the excitement and exhilaration of Don Cherry’s most animated rant, the novel, itself, acts as a pocket sized version of Hockey Night in Canada. Swan keeps the chapters short, and easily digestible – and at an un-intimidating 136 pages, the novel serves as a quick read that is easy to pick up and hard to put down. 

     Readers are hit hard with every slap-shot, and every cross-check -- but importantly, Swan delicately balances out this in-your-face action with a subplot that is very much reflective of Jake’s internal battle as a burgeoning hockey player. Throughout the novel, Jake learns to become his own “enforcer” (an unofficial “goon” or “tough guy” whose role is to deter and respond to violent play), and, by the end of the book, he is able to follow Grandpa’s advice and assert a great deal of conviction and self-confidence as a goalie and as a teenager. 

     Off the ice, Jake also learns the importance of familial support and respect – a particularly relevant issue considering Jake’s situation of living in a blended family. Unfortunately, Swan does not fully resolve the issue of Jake’s increasingly absent father; however, readers may very well expect to read about this, and other issues in a (hopefully) upcoming third installment.

     Bill Swan’s contributions to the “Sports Stories” series are bound to pique the interest of any young sports enthusiast, for he not only writes books about hockey but about soccer and track and field as well. There simply aren’t enough books like these on our library shelves – but with Swan ploughing his own furrow in the field of Canadian sporting books, there are likely to be many more in the near future. 

Highly Recommended.

Lindsay Schluter is a student of Library and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia.

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

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.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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