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My First NHL® Book Series (Hockey Shapes, Hockey Colours, Hockey 123, Hockey Opposites, Hockey Animals, Hockey ABC) by Ch. Jordan

Jordan, Christopher.  My First NHL® Book Series (Hockey Shapes, Hockey Colours, Hockey 123, Hockey Opposites, Hockey Animals, Hockey ABC). Toronto: Tundra Books, 2011.  Print [Board Books].

These six volumes are board books, with thick pages that would be difficult to tear and wipe-able surfaces that will withstand sticky baby fingers.  They cover the standard content of first books for pre-readers, but using NHL® examples.  In some of the books, the NHL® examples work well.  For example in Hockey 123, there are 2 hockey nets, 5 pairs of skates, and 11 whistles. In other books the examples seem forced and awkward. For example, in Hockey Opposites, “fast” and “slow” are illustrated by a forward and a goalie, respectively.  It would be very difficult for a child at the board-book reading stage to understand what a forward and a goalie are, much less who moves at what speed.  Moreover, I think most people would recognize that while goalies do not usually move quickly around the rink, their movements are lightning-fast and a “slow” goalie wouldn’t have a job in the NHL®.

With the exception of Hockey 123, these books are too complex for pre-readers.  Most of the six books contain text which is at a Grade 6 reading level or higher.  For example, in Hockey Shapes, the description which accompanies the “leaf” shape begins, “[t]here are many different species of leaves, ranging in colour, shape, and size…”.   This is one of several clues that these books are meant as much for adults who will be reading them aloud, as for children.  In Hockey ABC many of the images chosen to illustrate the alphabet will appeal more to parents than to children.  In this book, “G” is not for the obvious “goalie”, but for Gretzky, whom children today will never see play.  Too often Jordan relies on photographs of players, which are complex images, for his illustrations.  In Hockey Animals, for example, instead of using just the team symbol containing the animal shape, Jordan uses full-length player shots, where the logo on the jersey is a tiny part of the image.

There is a reason that board books usually contain simple shapes, bold colours and single syllable words.  It is hard to imagine sitting with a 1-year-old child on your lap reading Hockey ABC and saying, ‘Now you try saying this, sweetie… “O is for Ovechkin”’.

However, if you assume that these books are really for hockey-crazed parents, then they will probably find readers.

Recommended with reservations:  2 out of 4 stars
Reviewer:  Sandy Campbell

Sandy is a Health Sciences Librarian at the University of Alberta, who has written hundreds of book reviews across many disciplines.  Sandy thinks that sharing books with children is one of the greatest gifts anyone can give.