Tom grabbed the puck and zipped ahead in high gear. He passed to Mark. Mark passed to Harty. They all skated hard. ‘Go, Hawks!’ shouted the crowd, giving the players extra zest. Harty passed to Tim. Tom unleashed his wicked slapshot. The puck soared into the net. GOAL! ‘Yahoo!’ ‘Yay!’ ‘Way to go, Tom!’ The boys high-fived on the ice. The whole team high-fived on the bench – except Sam. His hands were on his hips.
Hockey Timeout is a beginner chapter book starring Tom and his friends who play on the Glenlake Hawks hockey team. The Hawks have a big game coming up against a neighbouring team, the Wolves; however, Sam, the Hawks’ star player, has been spoiling their team spirit. After Sam makes all the players promise to pass only to him, the Hawks lose their sense of teamwork and struggle to beat the Wolves. Will the Hawks be able to work together to put their team back together? Through kindness, respect, and self-awareness, Tom leads the team and Sam to become better teammates, better friends, and better hockey players.
Simple sentences, short chapters, and less than 100 pages long, Hockey Timeout is a relatively unintimidating novel for early readers. There are a lot of exclamations, like “Nice!” and “Wahoo!”, plus onomatopoeic words like “zoom” and “swish” which together make reading the book all the more exciting, and give early readers a chance to sound out words as they read along. The text, which uses a large font, is interspersed with illustrations, making this book a fine chapter book to use with early readers. The book’s black and white, simple comic book-style illustrations are a great fun and show lots of great hockey action in while reinforcing the text. Additionally, the facial expressions drawn on the characters add to the feelings of tension the players are experiencing while the team is out of sync.
One thing I noticed throughout the story is that there were numerous hockey terms used throughout. Words like Hat Tricks, slap shots, and scrimmages were liberally scattered throughout the story, and their use would definitely appeal to avid hockey fans. While this specialized terminology could be a deterrent for non-hockey players, I found that the terms were given strong context or outright explanation so that the reader could follow along even without prior knowledge of the terms.
Despite all the hockey talk, Hockey Timeout is so much more than just a book about kids playing hockey. Strong themes of teamwork, leadership, loyalty, and being a true friend are seen throughout the book. Tom isn’t one of the best players, but he manages to stand out as a leader by recognizing Sam’s selfish behaviour and working towards fixing this behaviour for the good of the team. Sam insists that he is the only reason the Hawks can win and demands that everyone pass only to him, thus ruining team morale. Other teammates who are feeling left out by Sam’s actions feel comfortable talking to Tom and look to him for guidance. Tom is effective at being a leader on and off the ice as he navigates through his teammates’ fears. He also manages to befriend Sam and explain to him why his actions are letting down the team and alienating him from his teammates.
Hockey Timeout is an engaging easy chapter book that will appeal to young children who enjoy hockey. While most of the characters are boys, there are a few girls on the hockey team as well. That the ages of the characters are never specified makes the book appealing to a broader range of readers at the beginning chapter book level.
Chelsea Iaconetti-Bush is a library technician at the Richmond Public Library in Richmond, British Columbia.