CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 20. . . . June 6, 2003
A is for Arena.
An arena is a large area where people gather to attend sporting events, concerts or shows. Because hockey needs a large sheet of ice to be played, all early hockey arenas were outdoor rinks and games could only be played when the weather was cold enough to keep the ice frozen. As people experimented with different ways to make ice, and keep it frozen indoors, it became more and more common to see indoor hockey arenas.
A can also be for the All-Star game. This game is held once a year and showcases the best and most talented players the National Hockey League (NHL) has to offer. The fans often pick the team starters, and the location of the game rotates between cities in North America.
Readers already familiar with a previous Sleeping Bear Press publication, M is for Maple: A Canadian Alphabet, written by Mike Ulmer and illustrated by Melanie Rose (CM, Vol. VIII, No. 12), will recognize the book's layout which incorporates a two part text. As shown in the excerpt above, each letter is presented via a four line poem, and then the content of that poem is expanded upon via one or two paragraphs of sidebar expository text.
Like the earlier book, each pair of facing pages is devoted to a single letter of the alphabet, or each page in a pair of facing pages is given over to a single letter. Not an alphabet book in the traditional sense of the book's having as its primary purpose the teaching of the letters of the alphabet, the work does, nevertheless, show each letter in its upper and lower case forms. As the book's subtitle, A Hockey Alphabet, indicates, the volume's focus is the sport of hockey, and as any Canadian knows, the words "hockey" and "the National Hockey League" are almost synonymous. Consequently, a large number of the examples used to associate letters of the alphabet with hockey are connected to the NHL, past and present, though references are made to the Olympics and to general hockey terms, such as "equipment" for "E," "ice" for "I," and "puck" for P."
Although the book principally focuses on the male aspect of hockey, Napier does include some small female content. Under "C is for the coach," he notes that "Daniele Sauvegeau led the Canadian women's team to an Olympic Gold Medal in 2002" while, under "W," readers find the poem:
The expository text connected to the letter "W" then devotes a paragraph to Hayley Wickenheiser's accomplishments plus another paragraph to America's Cammi Granato.
Following "Z," Napier briefly defines "A Few Other Hockey Terms": Face-offs; Offsides; Icing; Penalties; Elbowing; High sticking; Holding; and Hooking. On the book's dedication page, Napier acknowledged that "As a special tribute to the North American origins of the game of hockey, we have chosen to use the Canadian spelling of selected words." In case even Canadian readers no longer recognize which words these are, a list of the nine words is included on the book's last page.
Napier's writing skills are equally matched by the fine artwork of Melanie Rose, a graduate of the Ontario College of Art. Whether spilling over a double page spread or confined to a single page, Rose's full-colour illustrations are filled with exuberant action and invite repeated "readings" to absorb their details and emotions.
While the picture book format of Z is for Zamboni will likely cause the book to be assigned to the children's section of libraries, teens and adults will also respond favorably to its contents.
Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and adolescent literature at the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.
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