Some great hockey books for the new year
By Yolanda T. Marshall
In 2024, I will interview authors who consistently contribute literature and preserve our diverse cultures. I’ve already featured around 200 available books written by Canada-based traditionally published and self-published authors, in the past two years. I wish you a prosperous New Year filled with great books.
We are currently in the depths of the winter season, so let’s discuss hockey. As a parent of a young boy who is showing an interest in the game, I must confess that I have discomforting thoughts about him joining a hockey team. It is a fact that Black hockey players have been in existence way before the National Hockey League was established. Yet, it is a game where many of us are sometimes reminded that we are not welcome. Regardless, many magnificent hockey players broke through racial barriers in the NHL. Here are some hockey stories, by Canadian authors to read with your little ones at home.
Willie: The Game-Changing Story of the NHL’s First Black Player
Written by Willie O’Ree and Michael McKinley.
“An inspiring memoir that shows that anyone can achieve their dreams if they are willing to fight for them. On January 18, 1958, Willie O’Ree was finally called up to the NHL after years of toiling in the minors, joining the Boston Bruins. And when he stepped out onto the ice against the Montreal Canadiens, not only did he fulfil the childhood dream he shared with so many other Canadian kids, he did something that had never been done before: He broke hockey’s colour barrier–just as his hero, Jackie Robinson, had done for baseball. In that pioneering first NHL game, O’Ree proved that no one could stop him from being a hockey player. But he soon learned that he could never be just a hockey player. He would always be a Black player, with all that entails. There were ugly name-calling and stick-swinging incidents, and nights when the Bruins had to be escorted to their bus by the police. But O’Ree never backed down.” – Penguin Canada, 2021.
The Hockey Jersey
Written by Jael Richardson with Eva Perron and illustrated by Chelsea Charles.
“It’s the day of the first hockey game and Kareema is about to take a big step into the locker room and into the world of hockey. Overwhelmed and unsure of what’s ahead, Kareema enters the changeroom and meets her new teammates — a group of young players who are also wondering if they will fit in with the team and find their place in the game. When their coach arrives with a bag full of brand-new uniforms and hands each player their jersey, Kareema and her teammates will discover something special while they get dressed for the game. As they take to the ice in their new uniforms, ready to play for the first time, Kareema will realize something unique about the game of hockey as her biggest fans cheer on.” – Scotiabank, 2023.
I Am BIG
Written by Itah Sadu and illustrated by Marley Berot.
“In the middle of the ice, a young Black hockey player finds joy in his talent and confidence in the cheers of his family, his coach, and the other players. Their support gives him the power to face down those who see him as a threat and to focus on the thrill of the game. Young people of colour who have experienced racism on and off the ice will see themselves in these pages. The beauty of hockey is celebrated here, as is the excellence of the young Black boy who continues to play the sport, he loves despite the danger that the racism of others can put him in. As well as his family and coach, he looks to Black hockey legends like P.K. Subban and Joel Ward for inspiration.” – Second Story Press, 2023.
The Hockey Skates
Written by and illustrated by Karl Subban and Maggie Zeng.
“Little PK Subban loves watching hockey on TV with his father, and he can’t wait to finally go out and skate—just like his hockey heroes! With his mother’s help, PK orders a pair of black, single-blade, size 7 skates. Now he just must wait for them to come in the mail. So he waits. And waits. Every new delivery brings hilarity and dismay as PK receives skates in the wrong size, wrong colour, wrong style—even a box that is empty! All the while, winter approaches and poor PK is very eager to get out on the rink. Even as he wonders if he will ever get to skate, his love of hockey pulls him to the sport in funny, imaginative ways.” – HarperCollins, 2023.
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