In this board book that introduces the upper and lower case letters of the English alphabet via the use of hockey-associated words to represent the letters, Chung employs the setting of a hockey game being played between two teams of Canadian birds and mammals. The red-suited Woodland Wapitis are at the home Aa arena of the blue-outfitted Forest Flyers. When the game is over, the arena’s ice will be cleaned and resurfaced by the Zz Zamboni machine. If you’re the adult who is sharing the contents of Hockey ABC with a child, you had better know some hockey terminology so that you’re able to explain, for instance, what the Ff five-hole is or the meaning of the Nn neutral zone.
In terms of design, each of the letters of the alphabet is given its own page or double-page spread or two letters will share a spread. The latter structure could pose some challenges for younger readers who may not know where to focus their attention. For example, on the spread for the letters Ff and Gg>, the text five-hole appears beneath Chung’s illustration of the Forest Flyer goalie while Gggoaltender is found on the half of the spread that has a Woodland Wapiti player. Generalizing from their single letter page experiences, youngsters might think this player is the goalie. Though each letter is presented in both its upper and lower case forms, with the exception of the aforementioned Zamboni, all of the example words begin with the lower case version of the letter. A static medium poses challenges in portraying the book’s action words, such as Iiinterception and Ssslapshot, especially if children have not yet learned the illustration convention of movement lines. The bathroom humor in the illustration accompanying Qqqueue may need some adult explanation.
On rereadings, some youngsters might note that the numbers on the Woodland Wapitis’s jerseys are all odd numbers while those on the Forest Flyers are even numbers. Parents could use this feature as an opportunity to practice number recognition. Even though Chung has chosen to illustrate all of the players, officials and fans anthropomorphically, children could be encouraged to identify the various animals that make up these “inclusive” teams. (Note: While the review uses team names, they do not appear in the book but were found on the publisher’s website.)
Hockey ABC certainly meets one of an alphabet book’s objectives, that of expanding a child’s vocabulary. However, the particularity of much of the text, coupled with the board book’s design, would suggest that Hockey ABC is probably better suited to being used with the upper end of its intended audience.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.