September 24, 2007

Hockey Book Review: Maple Leafs A-Z

Yesterday I talked about Raincoast Books lucrative children's hockey book franchise. The beautifully illustrated and well written stories are amazing power sellers. Previous titles include Gretzky's Game, The Greatest Goal, The Goalie Mask, Number Four, Bobby Orr!, A Hero Named Howe and the incredibly successful franchise starter My Leafs Sweater. All of these books were written by Mike Leonetti.

In 2007 Raincoast returns with two titles. They branched out and let Chris Mizzoni have a try with what is sure to be a hit in Clancy With The Puck. As I reviewed yesterday, this is a special title.

And of course Raincoast returns with another Leonetti effort in Maple Leafs A-Z. And why not? The Leonetti/Raincoast formula has worked magnificently in the past, and the marketplace is all theirs.

Except this book is a miss.

Now I don't doubt for a second that this book will sell more copies than most books this season. Greg Banning returns and his artwork is amazing. The franchise's reputation precedes itself, particularly with collectors and public and elementary school library systems. And the #1 rule about publishing hockey books is Maple Leafs books sell. Lots.

My number one complaint about this book: A - Z doesn't make much sense. Now I'll give Leonetti leeway with Max Bentley for the X entry, but E is Ted Kennedy and U is for Mats Sundin? Or H is for Busher Jackson or I is for King Clancy? Every kid I showed this book to drew the same conclusion. "That makes no sense."

Another common complaint: the kids this book is aimed at don't have a clue who anyone other than Sundin is. T is for Darcy Tucker and W is for Kyle Wellwood and M is for Bryan McCabe. I'd have to travel back in time and find myself if I wanted to find an 8 year old who knew who Dave Keon, Happy Day, Red Kelly, Syl Apps or Joe Primeau were.

Now who am I to criticize the Raincoast franchise on this subject. After all, I am the Hockey History Blogger and I think it is great that a) hockey history books are aimed at children and b) there are enough children out there to keep churning out more titles.

But I do find it hard to believe most kids want to connect with players of yesteryear they never heard of. They don't care about Turk Broda, they want Vesa Toskala. Who cares about Borje Salming, where's Tomas Kaberle? Tim Horton is some donut guy, he never played for the Maple Leafs.

Leonetti's previous children's titles all told a well written story, be it about the first goalie mask, the famous goal that beat the Russians, the 10 point game or of the career of #99. But this book just offers the briefest of biographies. It lacks Leonetti's trademark enthusiasm. Only Banning's artwork saves this book.

Overall Book Rating: 1/5 Back Up Goalie


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