________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 2. . . .September 11, 2015


Crazy About Hockey!

Loris Lesynski. Illustrated by Gerry Rasmussen.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2015.
32 pp., trade pbk., hc., pdf & html, $12.95 (pbk.), $22.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-711-4 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-712-1 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55451-714-5 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-55451-713-8 (html).

Subject Heading:
Hockey-Juvenile poetry.

Kindergarten-grade 7 / Ages 5-12.

Review by Joanie Proske.

**** /4



From arenas to Zambonis, Crazy About Hockey! is a picture book guaranteed to delight any youngster with an interest in Canada’s national pastime of hockey. Puck manufacturing, the struggles of dressing in hockey gear, concussions, miracle goals, and elbow fouls - nothing is considered offside in this rollicking collection of 25 hockey-themed poems.

internal art     Canadian picture book author-poet Lesynski is best known for her kid-accessible rhymes, chants and poetry offerings. She is the author of a number of award-winning poetry collections which are popular with elementary students: Shoe Shakes, Boy Soup, Catmagic, Night School, Ogre Fun, Dirty Dog Boogie, Nothing Beats a Pizza, I Did it Because... and ZIGZAG: Zoems for Zindergarten. Crazy About Hockey! definitely scores a hat trick for Loris Lesynski’s sports poems collection, following her previous offerings of Crazy About Soccer! and Crazy About Basketball.

      Lesynski’s lineup of 25 poems in Crazy About Hockey! varies from short, snappy rhymes to longer multi-verse poems that span two-page spreads. As for the organization of the poems - they nicely sort into three sections – much like the three periods of a hockey game. Lesynski begins her “first period” with several selections that capture the spirit of the game and immediately engage her readers, including “My Team”, which opens with:

We get in position, about to start,
around us the thumps of every heart –
the hearts on the ice and the ones that came
to watch an amazing hockey game.
In no other sport is the playing as fast –
The furious speed of the puck as it’s passed!

     The other poems in this section explore informational aspects of the game as reflected in “The Stanley Cup”, “Women in Action”, “Places to Play”, and “Seven Nine Six”.

     Lesynski begins the “second period” by sharing a number of poems that are simply silly but guaranteed to appeal to readers, especially those who might not otherwise have a keen interest in sports. “If Aliens Came to the Game” invites the reader to imagine hockey from a different perspective:

SUPPOSE you came from outer space
Our rink by chance your landing place.
Shiny whiteness...circles...lines – What messages in those designs?

The life-forms in those wriggling hordes!
The whoosh of skates, the thumps on boards!
All the creatures looked the same.
Your language had no word for “game.”

      The “third period” concludes with a flurry of toe-tapping, rhythms that focus on various aspects of the game of hockey. The book includes poems about hockey masks and sticks, player emotions, and even the cost of participating. “Game Over” concludes with the reflection:

We’re leaving the rink with a grin, if we won
(and a shrug if we lost because still – it was fun),
Knowing that practice tomorrow, at six,
Means we’ll be here with our bags and our sticks,
Ready to play though the morning’s like night,
The hockey arena our favorite light.

      Lesynski usually illustrates her own picture books, but all three books in her sports collection feature the talents of Canadian illustrator Gerry Rasmussen. Cartoonist for the widely syndicated daily comic strip Betty, Rasmussen has created the perfect colourful illustrations to enhance this lineup of wacky hockey rhymes. His lighthearted drawing style is infused with colour, energy and a cartoonish, highly illustrative look that incorporates word bubbles, captions, and comic lettering styles. The pen and ink pictures are usually contrasted against a white background and make full use of the page, often vying with the text in a face-off for creative placement on the page. The result is that each poem is presented in its own unique, engaging approach – building energy and filling the book’s pages with a jam-packed arena’s worth of enthusiasm for hockey. Rasmussen’s style is sure to delight readers as it recalls the zany and joyful illustrative talents of Michael Martchenko, well-known for his partnership with Canadian picture book phenomenon Robert Munsch.

     It is clear that Lesynski’s goal in Crazy About Hockey! is to showcase the accessibility of poetry – and to bring home the point that poems can rhyme or not – be witty, quirky, silly, informative, or just plain fun to read, recite, share and create. Elementary teachers will delight in using these hockey poems for a variety of inspired teaching opportunities – perhaps introducing poetry to a reluctant audience or participating in some enthusiastic choral reading. The book’s final end paper also includes a website where students are encouraged to write their own hockey poems.

     Crazy About Hockey! is a well-recommended purchase for school and public library collections and for any youngster interested in hockey. The only call many school librarians might not agree with is the book’s assigned Dewey number of 811.54 which benches it in the poetry section. But no problem - a little advertising or extra signage in the 796.334 hockey section of the library will easily direct hockey enthusiasts to its location and possibly encourage a browse through other poetry books as well. Lesynski shoots – and scores with this well-recommended title!

Highly Recommended.

Joanie Proske is a teacher librarian in the Langley School District, Langley, BC.

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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