CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 1. . . .September 5, 2014
Iginla Sparks the Flames.
Mike Leonetti. Illustrated by Gary McLaughlin.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2014.
30 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
Iginla, Jarome, 1977- -Juvenile fiction.
Calgary Flames (Hockey team)-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.
Review by Dave Jenkinson.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
We filled in the papers and were set to leave when our car would not start. Jarome saw what happened and said we should stay overnight in Calgary while the car got repaired. He even paid for our hotel room. We left for home the next day but I would never forget how generous Jarome had been.
Now I knew why he was a hero to so many people.
Author Leonetti and illustrator McLaughlin last combined their talents in Crosby’s Golden Goal. Their newest title again employs the successful “formula” of having a young boy's personal story intersect with that of an actual current or former National Hockey League player. In this case, the player is Jarome Iginla, who, at the period in which the book is set, the 2003-2004 NHL season, was the captain of the Calgary Flames.
The book’s central fictional juvenile character is Riley who lives near Calgary with his single father. Riley explains: “Mom had moved back to Toronto, and Dad and I were on our own.” While Riley plays baseball and soccer, plus pickup hockey, he really wants to play hockey in an organized league. However, even though Riley’s father works two jobs, there isn’t enough money for Riley’s registration fees and needed equipment. Hockey seems to be not possible for Riley until his uncle, Zach, points out, “There are organizations that help out kids who can’t afford to play sports...Why don’t we do some research?” Their research leads them to KidSport and a trip to the local KidSport office in Calgary where Riley drops off his application and meets Jarome Iginla who is signing autographs and even gives Riley an autographed T-shirt. (See excerpt.)
Jarome becomes Riley’s instant hero, and after returning home, Riley begins to research Jarome’s history and shares what he learns with the reader. One area of commonality is that both Riley and Iginla come from single parent homes. Riley’s KidSport application is successful, and Riley becomes a member of the local Royals team. Wearing his Iginla autographed T-shirt under his team sweater, Riley plays right wing where he tries to copy Iginla’s style of play. Though Riley’s team falters in the playoffs, Riley hopes the Flames will be more successful in their run for the Stanley Cup. A KidSport draw sees Riley and his father winning a pair of home game tickets to the third game of the Cup finals. The Flames get a shutout, but then father and son watch the rest of the finals on television, with the Flames losing in overtime in the seventh game. During the summer, Riley and his father help install new boards and glass at their local rink. “We’re giving back to the community, just like Jarome does,” says Riley. The book closes with a one-page biography of Iginla and a photo.
Again, McLaughlin’s realistic and action-filled illustrations minimally take up a full-page of each pair of facing pages and often spill over to occupy three-quarters of a double-page spread. Though young readers probably won’t notice (or care), McLauchlin’s portrayal of Riley’s home appears to be a bit too upscale to allow Riley to qualify for the financial support from KidSport.
I must admit that, until I read Iginla Sparks the Flames, I had never heard about KidSport whose Mission is:
We believe that no kid should be left on the sidelines and all should be given the opportunity to experience the positive benefits of organized sports. KidSport™ provides support to children in order to remove financial barriers that prevent them from playing organized sport. (www.kidsportcanada.ca)
During his Flames years, Iginla truly was a supporter of the local chapter of KidSport, and between 2000 and 2004, he donated $1,000 for each goal he scored. Following the 2004-2005 lock out, Iginla doubled his donations to $2,000 per goal, with half going to the Calgary chapter and the other half going to the national organization.
Even though I live in the land of the Winnipeg Jets, as long as Iggie was a Calgary Flame, I had divided loyalties. Traded to the Penguins, Iginla was then picked up as a free agent by the Bruins in 2013. Because of salary cap constraints, Iginla again became a free agent at the end of the 2013-14 NHL season, and he has now signed a three-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche. It’s now been a number of years since Iginla’s name was last connected to the Calgary Flames, and that fact, to some (hopefully small) extent could weaken the book’s appeal.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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