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Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Highest Number in the World, written by Roy MacGregor and illustrated by Genevieve Despres. Tundra, 2014. $19.99 ages 5 and up

"Gabe's bedroom was a shrine to Hayley, filled with posters, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, hockey cards and a drawing Gabe made of the two of them - both wearing number 22, of course. Gabe was counting on getting number 22 with The Spirit."

If you love sports.- just one or all - you  likely have a sports hero or two. If you are a child, that hero may consume your thoughts, and even determine what jersey you want to wear whenever you play your sport.

Gabriella, who wants only to be called Gabe, is that kind of fan. She loves hockey and she especially loves Hayley Wickenheiser! Her favorite number is 22. She has always worn 22. She is a nine year old spitfire who finds a place on the ten year old team, THE SPIRIT.

When the new jerseys are handed out and Gabe gets number 9, she is heartsick. There is no 22, or it would be hers!. A day that started with such promise no longer holds any happiness for her. It's the worst number in the world, and she doesn't even want to wear it. She takes the jersey home and hides it away.

Soon it's Grandma Gabriella to the rescue with her own team stories, and a quick lesson on the remarkable players who have also worn a number 9 sweater. You may remember some of them: Andy Bathgate, Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, Rocket Richard. Why even Wayne Gretzky wore 99! Besides all that, Grandma wore it, too until they told her she couldn't play (girls were not allowed). After that, she wore it as a fan of the many wonderful players who did wear it.

What do you think? Will Grandma's stories change Gabe's mind?

The illustrations add depth and detail to this very warm and winning sports story for young readers.
Done in gouache, Ms. Despres captures the game and the drama from a variety of perspectives. Don't miss the final image. It finishes the story up in a very special and charming way!

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