The Night Before Playoffs
The Night Before Playoffs
They took to the ice just as quick as a flash. Raccoon dropped the puck, and the players’ sticks clashed. Quickly Fox won the face-off and passed to his team. Then Owl scooped the puck and she charged forth full steam. She raced with the puck before Pika could grab it. She passed it to Fox, who then slid it to Rabbit.
Set to the rhyme of “The Night Before Christmas”, The Night Before Playoffs is a play-by-play of an exciting moonlit hockey game of forest creatures! Although readers are anticipating the human hockey game described at the opening of the book, the majority of the book takes place at night between two teams of animals while human “players were nestled all snug in their beds… as the ref read his rule book, the linesmen slept tight, And the coaches had just settled in for the night.” Hockey players (like myself) and fans of the game are sure to delight in this comical plot twist.
I particularly enjoyed how the hockey creatures are identified by their animal species in the text of the story since it helps readers identify who has possession of the puck under their hockey gear. There is a raccoon referee and two teams, the Mountain Marauders in red jerseys with a mountain logo and the Woodland Warriors in green jerseys with a green tree logo. Canadian creatures make up the two teams-worth of players including a fox, owl, rabbit, bighorn, marmot, wolverine, puma, eagle, black bear, pika, moose, and beaver.
The wintery, blue illustrations invoke a chilly feeling, perfect for the setting of watching an outdoor hockey game. There is a great backdrop of fellow Canadian creatures in the audience holding signs and cheering for their teams. The illustrations provide a lot of action with the fast, skillful motion of characters highlighted on every page. The characters’ animated expressions of effort and surprise also add to the excitement of the story.
I was impressed by the author’s ability to both rhyme to the tune of “The Night Before Christmas” and give readers an accurate play-by-play of the closely matched hockey game. Canadian sportscaster Joe Bowen would be proud! As the moon begins to set, the game is won by the Woodland Warriors where “each winner was crowned with a wreath of fresh holly, and everyone ended the night feeling jolly.” In an inspiring scene of sportsmanship, the forest creatures tidied the rink together “and had just finished up as the sky turned light pink”, and the human players take to the ice for their playoff game none the wiser of the midnight match between Marauders and Warriors. With a cheer of “Happy playoffs to all!” and, “Let’s play a great game!” the final page will make readers laugh out loud as we see a human girl skating past a feather and a Woodland Warrior flag on the ice, a little wink to what readers have just enjoyed reading!
Reagan Kapasi is a toddler mom and recently pivoted from being a Children’s Librarian to a Reference Librarian at the Toronto Reference Library in the Languages and Literature Department. She also serves on the Ontario Library Association’s Child and Youth Services Committee and Reader’s Advisory Committee. Reagan has worked as the Director of Inventory and Outreach for The Children’s Book Bank, a children’s literacy charity that gives away free books to children and families in high needs, Toronto neighbourhoods.