Tuesday, 10 November 2009

TBC: The Rocket

Teebz's Book Club is proud to present another book aimed at the younger readers today. With the Montreal Canadiens wearing their 1910-11 uniforms tonight, it seems entirely appropriate to take a look at a book that touches upon one of the Canadiens' most loved players. TBC is honoured to have the chance to review The Rocket, written by Mike Leonetti, illustrated by Greg Banning, and published by Scholastic under their North Winds Press division. The Canadiens will be celebrating their 100th anniversary game on December 4, so I felt that it would be good to get this book out there for the younger hockey fans reading this site.

Mike Leonetti has written a number of hockey-centric books, including Canadiens Legends which was reviewed right here on Hockey Blog In Canada. Mr. Leonetti lives in Woodbridge, Ontario, with his wife, Maria, and their son, David.

From his bio on his website, Greg Banning "is sought after by major advertising agencies in Canada and the USA and he has now worked with clients in the UK. One of Greg’s most notable illustrations was his re-imaging of the iconic 'Brawny Man' for Brawny Paper Towels". Mr. Banning has worked as an illustrator with a number of publishing companies, and has illustrated four of Mr. Leonetti's books including the one we're reviewing today. He's currently working on a book in New York with Harper Collins. For more information on Mr. Banning and his work, please check out his website here.

The story of The Rocket revolves around Andre, a youngster from Montreal in the early-1940s. Andre is a pretty good hockey player, but he is constantly being compared to his older brother, Marcel, in terms of his hockey ability. This frustrates young Andre as he wants to be seen as a great player on his own merits.

Andre's team meets up with another school team in St. Francois early in the book. It's there where he hears the comments from parents and fans about being more like his brother. Again, it frustrates him, but Andre presses on. He notices, however, the a smaller player from the St. Francois team is also hearing the same comparisons made in regards to that player's older brother. The smooth skating youngster didn't seem to let the comments bother him, and Andre noted that the puck seemed to be on his stick the whole game.

During this time, a young 22 year-old phenom was gaining notoriety with the Montreal Canadiens. The young Maruice Richard was a sniper like no one had seen, and his nickname of "The Rocket" only scratched the surface in terms of how explosive of a player he was. With World War II going on, celebrating what the Montreal Canadiens were doing on the ice helped to distract everyone from the major story at the time.

Because of the number of men dispatched to Europe for the war, Maurice Richard accepted a day job in a factory where Andre's father worked! According to Andre's dad, Maurice Richard was modest and polite, and rarely spoke about hockey. He did, however, get Andre and his father a pair of tickets to a Montreal Canadiens playoff game against the Toronto Maple Leafs! Having seen his team eliminated in the playoffs by St. Francois and the other boy who drew comparisons to his brother, Andre was excited to see his first NHL game where the stakes were the highest!

When Andre and his father arrive at the Montreal Forum, Andre was surprised to be seated next to the boy from St. Francois! The two of them spoke kindly throughout the game to another about hockey and Maurice Richard. Richard was the story of the game. He scored all five goals in a 5-1 win! It was here that we learned the true story about the youngster from St. Francois, and why he was so good. I'm not going to reveal his secret here, but Mr. Leonetti's ending is excellent!

Honestly, this book has a great moral story behind it. Mr. Leonetti speaks about younger siblings living in the shadow of their older siblings, and the way he portrays this relationship between brothers is approached honestly, respectfully, and without downplaying the message. His book does a lot to reinforce the notion that younger siblings shouldn't always be compared on ability to their older siblings as the two individuals could be entirely opposite in the way they play the game. Having a younger brother myself, I know that this is entirely true.

Mr. Banning's illustrations throughout the book are vivid and beautiful. Owning this book for the images only would make sense since all of them could be in an art gallery. Mr. Leonetti's story is entirely complemented by Mr. Banning's illustrations, and the reverse also holds true. Mr. Banning is an impressive artist, and his work should be celebrated in this book.

Overall, The Rocket is an excellent book with a great lesson written into it. Kids, especially those who are younger siblings in a household, will appreciate this book in that it speaks directly to their situations in everyday life. For the eldest children, it will discuss how to manage the comparisons made to them, and should help to forge a tighter bond between the children if the lesson is retained. Mr. Leonetti's hockey knowledge is not lost in the book either, and his focus on the Canadiens helps to tell this wonderful story. Because of these reasons, The Rocket most definitely deserves Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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