CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 23 . . . . February 20, 2015
Mike Ulmer's new alphabet book, M is for Maple Leafs: An Official Toronto Maple Leafs Alphabet Book, focuses on the world famous Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team. As with his other alphabet books, J is for Jump Shot: A Basketball Alphabet (2006), H is for Horse: An Equestrian Alphabet (2004), and M is for Maple: A Canadian Alphabet (2001), this book is not intended for very young children who are just learning to connect letters to words and ideas. The audience would definitely need to be able to read the text which consists of both poetry and prose relating to the hockey team.
M is for Maple Leafs devotes one full page to each letter of the alphabet. Only two letters, C and P, have a two page spread. "C stands for captains and Maple Leafs." "Pucks are made of hard rubber and weigh 160 grams." Each letter appears in upper and lower case forms. Mike Ulmer then follows up with a poem and a prose explanation of the word associated with the letter. The poems vary in length but depend heavily on various combinations of end rhymes. At times, the rhymes detract from the content of the poems. Ulmer's nonfiction text is definitely more readable than his poetry.
Melanie Rose's artwork is amazing! The illustrations are full of vibrant colour and excitement. With a photograph-like quality, Rose's use of realistic and precise detail captures the spirit of the team and the action of the game. Readers will see the awe and wonder in the eyes of children as they watch the game in "N for numbers" and touch the Stanley Cup in "Q for quest". Fan enthusiasm is obvious in "A for Air Canada Centre" and "B for Blue and White". But perhaps the best illustrations are reserved for the players of the game. The determination and skill of professional hockey players radiates from the page as the puck drops in "F for faceoff," and at the goal in "G for goalie".
Ulmer's text focuses heavily on hockey logistics, such as "L for line change" and "P for puck". There are many references to Maple Leaf personalities (Conn Smythe, Johnny Bower, Wendel Clark, Doug Gilmour, Mats Sundin and Dion Phaneuf). Maple Leaf hockey history is also a major focus in "B for Blue and White," "K for Kid Line," and "T for Darryl Sittler's ten-point game". However, there are also some choices that are unclear. Is "S" for the NHL Original Six teams or "springs/starts/seasons" as the poem suggests?
M is for Maple Leafs: An Official Toronto Maple Leafs Alphabet Book would definitely appeal to sports enthusiasts, hockey fans and Maple Leaf fans who want to know more about the history of their team. Both children and adults who admire the famous team can enjoy this book.
Myra Junyk, a literacy advocate and author, lives in Toronto, ON.
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