Hockey Agony, by Donna McDine, and illustrated by Julie Hammond, is one of those short books that grabs your attention. Not because of the title -- though it does put you on notice something painful is coming -- but because of the subject matter. Here’s Larry, a teenager and excellent hockey player, who’s struggling. We see him in pain from a broken leg and in worse pain since he can’t play for his hockey team. Adding insult to injury, Peter, somewhat of a bully and “bad boy,” has taken Larry’s coveted spot on the team.
In addition to his humiliation and frustration, his Coach wants Larry to improve his attitude. Coach gives Larry the job of clock runner in the next game. This means Larry will have responsibility and monitor the game with a member of the other team. When Peter hears of Larry being the clock runner, he pushes temptation squarely in Larry’s face. And in his bully way, Peter leaves no doubt as to what he expects Larry to do, if the opportunity presents itself – cheat in favor of their team. Will Larry bow to this temptation and give an advantage to his team, or will he do the right thing?
Julie Hammond’s artwork is suggestive of Americana folk art – an enjoyable and picturesque style – that adds to the feeling of the story. She’s captured the characters; giving us “true life” facial expressions and body language. Her depiction of high school life is timeless and even other-worldly, as if we see the scenes through a special soft lens.
As parents and teachers, we hope the lessons we present on honesty, integrity, giving your word, and doing your best will be absorbed and integrated into our students’ characters. The reality is that we seldom get to see whether these lessons bear fruit. Talk, as they say is cheap, and actions speak volumes. When presented with temptation, will our students find their moral and ethical center? Will they take the high road and do the right thing? We all are tested throughout our lives and have important choices and tough decisions to make. Read Hockey Agony and see how Larry handles his temptation.
Available from www.guardianangelpublishing.com/
This review is part of the World of Ink Virtual Book Tour