CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 19 . . . . January 23, 2015
Abby Hoffman is a nine-year old girl who loves hockey. Unfortunately, it is 1955, and Toronto doesn't have any hockey leagues open to girls. Despite being prohibited from to the league, she conceals her gender and joins the St. Catharines Tee Pees hockey team as Ab Hoffman. To keep up her disguise, Abby begins her season with a newly shorn haircut and outfitted in borrowed hockey gear from her older brothers, complete with a jock. Abby is a strong player, and, despite the continued goading of one of her team members and her brothers' loose lips, she manages to stay under cover for the majority of the season. Only when she is drafted to the league's All Star team for a charity match is her secret revealed. Rather than bowing out of the league with shame, she finds herself with some strong supporters from unexpected places who fight for her continued presence on the ice. This assistance helps support Abby's case that girls should have equal opportunity to play hockey like their male counterparts. The league's reluctant acceptance garners attention for Abby at a national level. However, now that Abby’s role on the team is secure, her focus returns to trying to score a goal while playing the role of defence before the season runs out!
The pace of the story flows smoothly without accounting for each game or day. While aspects of her hockey games are described in depth, the level of detail provided is not overbearing for readers who are not hockey fans. The language used will be easily understood by the intended age group.
While the story focuses on the gender restriction which prohibits Abby from openly participating in the boy’s hockey league, readers are also exposed to other areas of 1950’s culture that were male dominated.
Abby's relationships with her parents, brothers, grandparents, and friends are well-developed and generally multifaceted. Her brothers love to tease her, yet are excellent supporters of her desire to play. Abby, in turn, also plays pranks on them but acknowledges their individual skills and strengths. While Abby’s best friend Susie is not a fan of hockey, she encourages Abby, though she questions Abby's decision to keep her short hair once Abby's gender is revealed to the rest of the league. Abby’s grandparents voice their opposing views on her participation in the boys’ league. Finally, her parents offer her unwavering support as she pursues her interest in a healthy lifestyle that includes playing hockey.
The voice of the main character is young - at times Abby speaks and thinks in a way that is somewhat brash and thoughtless. An example of this is when she says girls have nothing in their heads while trying to prove her tomboy nature to a reporter. Additionally, she feels and demonstrates her frustration in a way that seems childish after a journalist writes that Abby's brothers are her idols. These sentiments may be shared by girls similar to Abby and draw them further in the story, but they may also alienate other readers. Despite the character’s occasional juvenile behaviours, she does demonstrate quiet restraint while interacting with an annoying teammate who is constantly seeking attention and berating Abby for her missteps. While the rest of her teammates are mature about her participation in the league once they learn that she is a girl, her nemesis doesn’t respond in kind. However, rather than becoming defensive and pointing out his weaknesses, she comes to his aid when he is in need.
The book is based on the experience of the real Abby Hoffman who is alive today. There is an epilogue which informs readers of the current activities of Abby and her family members. Readers will be interested to learn that Abby did not continue with hockey after her fabulous season, but rather she turned her sights to breaking gender divides in the world of track and field. These ventures resulted her competing in long distance running events on an international level.
Meredith Harrison-Lim is a MLIS graduate working for the Federal Government in the National Capital Region.
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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.
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.