Canadian, picture book

She Shoots, She Scores: Splinters

Something tells me Hayley Wickenheiser would approve

It seems every season each Canadian publisher has something hockey-related to offer. Most of these books fall under non-fiction or boy-friendly middle grade. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the number of hockey books for kids that are published in Canada. But a Cinderella story featuring a disadvantaged hockey phenom? That is different.

The Cinderella in this charmer by Kevin Sylvester is Cindy Winters, a resourceful and talented girl who plays hockey at every chance she gets. But leagues are expensive (how true), and so she scrimps and saves until she can afford to pay her own way into a local league. The step sisters in this tale are the goon-like Blister sisters, whose biased mother also happens to be the coach. When super-star Charmaine Prince announces the formation of an all-star team, Cindy fully expects to be sidelined once again. But then her fairy goaltender arrives to save the day, complete with new skates, new uniform, and a gleaming Zamboni to really arrive in style.

Fairytales are bent every which way these days to fit an author’s concept. This is not always successful. The unlikely combination of hockey and Cinderella is a winning example of fairytale adaptation done right. Kevin Sylvester makes all sorts of cheeky nods to the original Cinderella. Prince Charming, for example, becomes Coach Charmaine Prince. When given brand new skates, Cindy quips, “Not glass?” to which her fairy goaltender replies, “Not very practical for hockey.”

Splinters mixes the whimsy of fairytale with the action of hockey. It’s a great family book; one that everyone will enjoy reading. In addition to feel-good fairytale justice, there is adrenalin boosting action, culminating in a countdown and final goal that will make listeners want to stand up and cheer.  Sylvester’s narrative style is clean and full of keenly made observations. For example, hockey makes Cindy’s “feet tingle, her hands twitch, and her heart race.”  Sylvester’s illustrations are funny and charming and perfectly compliment his warm-hearted text.

With this crowd pleaser and the release of the second title in the Neil Flambé series, Neil Flambé and the Aztec AbductionKevin Sylvester is poised at the beginning of a very good year. I have had the pleasure of seeing him in action when he dropped by the Flying Dragon to talk to our after school bookclub, and believe me when I tell you that a Kevin Sylvester presentation is not to be missed. Stop by Word on the Street in Toronto on Sunday, September 26th at 4:00pm to see what I mean.*

Splinters will be available in hard cover from Tundra Books on September 13th.

*Coincidentally, I will be hosting the kids’ tent, so be sure to say hello!

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