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Sunday, 29 November 2009

TBC: Off The Crossbar

Teebz's Book Club is working feverishly to bring to you the best books for readers of all ages. So it surprised me when I was asked via email why there were no books specifically for young readers. I responded by saying that I had covered several books for children. I received a second email from this reader, and it became clear that I was missing an entire demographic. Children who are in middle school or slightly younger are normally a little too advanced for the books I've reviewed for children, but may not be advanced enough for some of the books geared towards adults. In saying this, I have started on a series of books intended for the adolescent crowd, and Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Off The Crossbar, written by David Skuy and published by Scholastic.

From the Charlie Joyce website, "David Skuy is a lawyer, recreational hockey player, and author of the Charlie Joyce Hockey Series. A popular speaker and advocate for the reading and writing skills of school-age children, he has crafted a series of books designed to capture the imagery, the sounds, the conflicts, and the achievements that typify a young boy’s life, be it in the school yard or in the hockey rink".

Now, you might be wondering who this "Charlie Joyce" character is. Charlie is the protagonist in the stories written by Mr. Skuy. Charlie's story begins in Off The Crossbar as we find Charlie, his mother, and his sister getting used to a new town as they have just moved to Terrance Falls. Charlie is a little nervous about starting Grade Nine in a new school where he knows nobody, but he's a pretty decent hockey player so there's a chance to make new friends.

However, his first pickup game doesn't go so well as "the new guy". Charlie runs into a few players who don't take lightly to the new guy showing them up, and Charlie soon learns that these players don't like Charlie one bit. Jake, Liam, Matt, and Thomas were a pretty tight group of kids who had grown up together, including playing hockey together. Pudge, a stocky fellow, was not part of their group, but they tolerated his presence. Charlie found himself at the scrutiny of these players for the first few weeks of school.

Mr. Hilton, Charlie's homeroom teacher, announced that the school tournament would be taking place soon, and Charlie decided that he should try out. Mr. Hilton would be coaching, and Charlie wanted to show Jake and his crew that he wasn't going to be intimidated. Through the tryouts, Charlie meets some guys who share his animosity towards Jake: Scott, Nick, and Zachary. These four players would form the majority of a good second line for Terrance Falls, playing behind Jake's line.

I'm not going to tell the story of what happens here, but this story was written extremely well by Mr. Skuy. He takes into account everything that kids go through at school: bullying, teasing from friends, trying out for teams, dealing with conflict, and the constant pressure of homework and family. Overshadowing all of these small storylines are the hockey tryouts and the tournament. All of it comes together very nicely through Mr. Skuy's writing, and that makes for a very enjoyable story and reading experience.

One of the neat things in the story is that several of the drills and systems that Charlie's team use are illustrated in the book very well. There's an excellent explanation of the neutral zone trap and how teams beat it, and this is something that everyone should know if they are interested in the systematic side of hockey. Mr. Skuy's descriptive examinations of these systems and drills shows that he not only knows the game, but understands how to teach the game as well. This is something that comes through in his writing often: he knows the game of hockey very well.

The 218-page story is perfectly suited for adolescents, including everyone from age nine to fourteen. The story really moves well, and was easy to read with its upbeat story and everything that Charlie faces. The characters are well-defined, and you gain empathy for Charlie as he works his way through each situation. Mr. Skuy's story was entirely a pleasure to read, and I am already looking forward to the second book in the series, Rebel Power Play. Because of this, Off The Crossbar deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval, and I can't wait to start on the next book to follow Charlie's adventure!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Cory said...

this looks like a pretty good pick, I suggest if you're wanting some more hockey related book for the pre-teen/teen crowd you should read The Wolfbay Wings series by Bruce Brooks (http://www.librarything.com/series/The%20Wolfbay%20Wings)