Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we skate into the topics at the very top of readers’ minds and recommend some recent great books to check out.
In reality, the topic everyone is talking about is the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide. We recommended our list of books for all ages connected to that subject back on May 12, when a leaked draft of this decision (which proved to be very accurate) was made public . . . we feel like it’s certainly a great week to revisit it! (And you can find ways to donate to help ensure safe abortion access in the United States here.)
Also happening this past weekend: the Stanley Cup Finals concluded, the National Hockey League’s championship series to determine the best team in professional ice hockey in North America. The Colorado Avalanche cross-checked their way to victory, four games to two, over last year’s winners the Tampa Bay Lightning. So, we’re strapping on some blades and hitting this ice, with books about ice hockey or – more generally – skating!
Not many better ways to celebrate the Stanley Cup than by books connected to a hockey player who held that trophy more than one time. Great, and its followup, Great Too, are picture books written by Glen Gretzky (brother to Wayne), and Lauri Holomis, and illustrated by hockey fan (and celebrated children’s author-illustrator) Kevin Sylvester. Both books celebrate teamwork and building on the ice, featuring depictions of a young Wayne Gretzky and Coach Wally (Wayne’s late beloved dad, Walter Gretzky). We follow Taylor, who plays hockey with The Great One as a kid, and learn the important lessons that Coach Wally imparts. Both books feature a foreword from four-time Stanley Cup winner Wayne Gretzky himself!
Bobby Orr only won a mere two Stanley Cups (which is far more than I ever will!), but he also wrote a great picture book based on his own childhood called Bobby Orr and the Hand-Me-Down Skates, co-authored by Kara Kootstra and illustrated by Jennifer Phelan. Young readers will learn that even future hockey legends start with hand-me-downs, as young Bobby, at first disappointed, grows to love the used blades he receives for a birthday.
And while Zachary Hyman hasn’t made it to the Stanley Cup championships (yet – he’s still young!), he’s certainly an NHL star with a few playoff appearances. He’s also an accomplished children’s author to boot, with his most hockey-themed book being Hockey Hero, illustrated by Zachary Pullen. In it, an awkward young player who finds his hockey chutzpah in the midst of a Pee Wee tournament.
Of course, you can’t talk about hockey picture books – or even Canadian picture books – and leave out Roch Carrier and Sheldon Cohen’s classic The Hockey Sweater. The quintessential hockey book is also the quintessential book about the English-French Canada divide. If you’re unfamiliar with this story of a boy in small-town Quebec who gets a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater instead of one from his beloved Montreal Canadiens, the 30th anniversary edition is readily available for your reading!
From the “the Wayne Gretzky of hockey writing” Roy MacGregor and Geneviève Després comes The Highest Number in the World, in which 9-year-old Gabe (Gabriella) Murray is disappointed to not get the jersey number 22 (her hero Hayley Wickenheiser’s number). But her grandmother informs her of the storied history of Number 9 in hockey (including its connection to another author on our list, Bobby Orr).
And the Governor General’s Award-winning When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge and Matt James proves you don’t need a league or a rink or a jersey to enjoy hockey. All the kids need in this lyrical and atmospheric story is a frozen lake and a full moon.
And finally, we’ll recommend a few picture books about non-humans on the hockey rink. Like Glory on Ice by Maureen Fergus and Mark Fearing, in which a centuries-old vampire (Vlad) brings his crushing-and-destroying skills to the ice in this hilarious story about the newest (and oldest) member of a local peewee hockey team.
Haven’t been interested in vampires since Twilight? Well, how about a polar bear playing hockey? Like Lorna Schultz Nicholson and Kelly Findley’s Puckster books, in which a hockey mascot experiences the dizzying highs and crushing lows of junior hockey. There are eight books in the series, but perhaps the most relevant one to last weekend’s events is Puckster’s First Hockey Tournament.
And what about the machines on the ice? Clean Sweep: Frank Zamboni’s Ice Machine by Monica Kulling and Renné Benoit tells the story of how one skating rink owner, with the help of his brother and cousin invented the now-famous (and ubiquitous) ice-resurfacing machine.
CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE
Need a crash-course in this whole NHL championship thing? What Is the Stanley Cup? by Gail Herman and Gregory Copeland is here to help! Young readers can learn about the oldest sports trophy in the world, from the formation of the leagues and the crowning of the first championship-winning team, to the Rangers’ Stanley Cup curse and more.
Though the title of Jay Versus the Saxophone of Doom by sometime-Bobby-Orr-collaborator Kara Kootstra (and illustrated by Kim Smith) may sound more about music than slapshots, we assure you Jay is all about hockey and is very good at it. If only playing woodwinds was as easy as handling a hockey stick!
Unlike Jay, Miles Lewis is not into hockey – he’s more into science and sports that don’t involve skates. But in Miles Lewis: King of the Ice by Kelly Starling Lyons and illustrated by Wayne Spencer, Miles may have to learn how to ice skate when is teacher announces a class field trip to a rink to learn about physics – and that’s just the beginning of his troubles!
The fifth installment of kids’ sports writer extraordinaire Mike Lupica’s Zach and Zoe Mysteries is The Hockey Rink Hunt, and – as you may have guessed – it follows the eight-year-old twins as they try to find the missing lucky necklace of the Boston Bruins’ star player. It’s a perfect book if you love Stieg Larsson as much you do Steve Stamkos.
And there are literally dozens of books in Roy MacGregor’s Screech Owls series, which read like a team full of Hardy Boys and Nancy Drews who know how to deke. But the one to read to celebrate the Stanley Cup is Screech Owls: The Ghost of the Stanley Cup. The book follows our favourite junior hockey team as they travel to Ottawa to play in the Little Stanley Cup peewee tournament, and find it pestered by a phantom! Or check out Screech Owls: The Night They Stole the Stanley Cup, in which the team uncovers a plot to lift the trophy from the Hockey Hall of Fame!
Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill features two girls named Sloane Jacobs: one a high-anxiety figure skater, the other an aggressive hockey player. When they meet on their way to skating camps in Montreal, they decide to switch places and escape their lives for a summer – with flirty results!
So, it’s not hockey, but it’s YA on ice! On Top of Glass by Karina Manta is an insightful memoir from a figure skating champion about her life as a bisexual professional athlete. A story about ice athleticism that spotlights queerness, as well as struggles with body image, panic attacks, and first crushes – that’s a hat trick most people would rather avoid!
Finding Her Edge by Jennifer Iacopelli is also more about figure skating – we don’t have too many YA novels about hockey – but we think you’ll have few complaints about this sweeping romance that follows elite ice dancer Adriana Russo as she finds herself drawn into an (ice) love triangle with dance partners old and new. If you love it, make sure to check out our Q&A with the author from earlier this year!