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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Splinters, written and illustrated by Kevin Sylvester. Tundra, 2010. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"Cindy sold hot chocolate and
cold lemonade. She delivered
newspapers and groceries. She
raked leaves and walked her elderly
neighbor's dog. Finally, after what
seemed forever, she had saved enough
quarters and pennies to sign up for a
real league." 

A contemporary fairy tale with a Canadian twist...Cindy loves hockey and will do anything she needs to do to play in a real league. Her parents work hard to put food on the table and pay for a roof over their heads. There is no money for hockey! But, Cindy works hard, makes the money needed to register and finally has a team!

As in all known fairy tales a lot is going to occur before the happy ending. The problems begin with the first practice. Coach Blister leaves much to be desired as instructor and leader, and her daughters the Blister Sisters are mean spirited, jealous and conniving. They do everything they can to make Cindy look bad, and Cindy is blamed and benched with the admonition 'to try not to get any splinters'.

Cindy is delegated to watch from the bench, to clean uniforms and tape sticks. Then, she notices a sign for tryouts for an all-star team. The coach is Charmaine Prince...oh, yeah! The Blister Sisters are signing up and Cindy is feeling defeated when she must get them ready for the tryouts. To the rescue comes her fairy goaltender and you know the rest.

With a new uniform, white leather skates (not glass...very impractical) and a shiny Zamboni to get her there on time, there is only one warning..."the spell ends when the final buzzer sounds." Off she goes! Who do you think shines on the ice?  Coach Prince is astounded. A real game is the test of her mettle, and she comes through with flying colors.

In trying to locate the owner of the lost skate, Coach Prince finally arrives at the rink where 'Splinters' is hauling tape and pucks for the team. She gets her chance to try the skate, and the tale ends with Cindy and Coach Prince knowing that they were going to 'love hockey happily ever after'.
Not only does he fashion a truly Canadian take on the familiar Cinderella story, Kevin Sylvester creates equally attention-grabbing illustrations to accompany his witty words. It takes careful observation to note all that he places on the page. I love the picture of Cindy multitasking all the jobs that will earn her the cash needed to join a league team. Her expressive face shows determination, dejection, elation and uncertainty, as events transpire. I'll be using this fine book in workshops and classrooms for a long time. Bravo!

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