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The Highest Number in the World by R. MacGregor

MacGregor, Roy. The Highest Number in the World. Illus. G. Despres. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2014. Print.

It shouldn’t surprise you that Roy MacGregor writes a good children’s book about hockey especially if you read the Globe and Mail where he is a sports writer. Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of professional sport with little interest in stats, trades, and game results. However, Roy MacGregor always finds an interesting twist to set his stories apart.

So it is with this book. On first glance, it seems to be about a hockey-prodigy; a 9-year-old girl idolizing a famous Canadian female hockey player so much she would give up playing because she has to wear #9 on her new team (not the #22 of her idol). How predictable and boring is that? BUT… her grandma sets her straight on why #9 is actually a better number to live “up” to (incidentally, “highest” in the title refers to height).

The illustrations are fantastic - filled with witty references to the life of a Canadian, 9-year-old, hockey-loving girl such as drawings hung with hockey tape, embarrassing Velcro skates with toe-picks, sock-monkeys, and many more.

A small quibble is the passive voice used in the first few pages; while chronologically correct, it detracts from the opening action just a little. Then again, hockey games themselves usually build up in intensity and excitement.

The main reason for loving this book is the use of history to change perceptions. In a world so concerned with the desires of now, this book reminds us that the present is intimately shaped by the past (even if we don’t quite yet know how).    

Highly recommended: 4 stars out of 4
Reviewer: David Sulz

David is a Public Services Librarian at University of Alberta and liaison librarian to Economics, Religious Studies, and Social Work. He has university studies in Library Studies, History, Elementary Education, Japanese, and Economics;  he formerly taught in schools and museums. His interests include physical activity, music, home improvements, and above all, things Japanese.