November 30, 2008

Z Is For Zamboni by Matt Napier

Are you looking for a good children's book which you will enjoy as much as your child? Z is for Zamboni: A Hockey Alphabet, written by Matt Napier and illustrated by Melanie Rose, is a an excellent choice.

Published by Sleeping Bear Press, the book obviously devotes a hockey theme to each letter of the alphabet. The book is not traditional in the sense that it's purpose is not necessarily to teach the alphabet.

While each letter is displayed in both upper and lower case, it is done in a most understated way. Rather than the alphabet it is hockey that definitely takes center stage. The brilliant illustrations are eye catching and elegant. Napier's writing compliments Rose's drawings nicely. Napier, son of former NHL star Mark Napier, writes a catchy 4 line poem that is fun for kids to read along to. Much to the delight of the parent, the content of the poem is featured with some educational text in the sidebars. This information often allows for parents to immerse themselves into the book. Often this will lead to the parent sharing their own love of hockey with their child. And is that not the sign of a great kids' book?

The book features very strong selections for each letter. A is for Arena, G Is For Gretzky, P is for Puck. I also like that the women's game is included more than once. As much as I appreciate the historical references in the book, such as references to Bobby Hull, Bobby Orr, the 1972 Summit Series and the 1980 Miracle on Ice, I always wonder how kids will react to hockey that is not pertinent to them. Perhaps kids would rather see Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin nowadays? Maybe it is just tough for me to believe that there are other youngsters out there like me, eager to devour hockey history.

Perhaps my criticism is moot. After all, the book received the Best Canadian Children's Picture Book award courtesy of the Ontario School Libraries Association. That prestigious award is picked by the kids themselves.

That award is proof that this book is critically acclaimed and a worthy inclusion on your child's book shelf.

Readers familiar with Sleeping Bear Press may remember a similar previous publication in M is for Maple: A Canadian Alphabet by Mike Ulmer and also illustrated by Melanie Rose. Not only is the scope of the project similar, but even the layout is very much the same. Other similar projects by this publisher include K is for Kick, a soccer related title, and H is for Home Run, baseball, J is for Jump Shot, basketball, and T is for Touchdown, football.


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