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Children's Nonfiction Sports & Recreation

Gordie's Skate

by (author) Bill Waiser

illustrated by Leanne Franson

Thistledown Press
Initial publish date
Apr 2023
Sports & Recreation, General, Hockey
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2023
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2023
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2023
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 3 to 8
  • Grade: p to 3


Set in Saskatchewan during the Great Depression, this is the story of hockey legend Gordie Howe and his first experience with skating. The book is charmingly illustrated in full colour by Leanne Franson. Bill Waiser is a popular historian and Governor-General's-Award-winning author. Times were hard for five-year-old Gordie and his family in the 1930s. One day, a neighbour, desperate for some money, sold Mrs. Howe a bag of meager possessions. Inside was something wonderful: an old pair of men's hockey skates. Even though they were several sizes too large, Gordie and his sister pounced on them. At first, she and Gordie tried skating on just one foot... then holding hands to keep their balance. Eventually, his sister abandoned her skate, and Gordie grabbed it. He never looked back!

Gordie's Skate is an ode to the love of hockey and a tale about hard times, where a family makes do with what little they had, even eating oatmeal for lunch and supper. It's also a story about kids creating their own fun, with determination -- Gordie and his friends played for hours with little or no equipment. This inspirational picture book shows how people came to depend on one another to endure the Great Depression. Gordie Howe's long and celebrated NHL career owed much to his mother's willingness to help a neighbour.

Lively illustrations capture life in Saskatoon in the 1930s, and show how a pair of old skates helped Gordie build skill and confidence and achieve his dreams.

About the authors

Bill Waiser is one of Canada's foremost historians. For more than three decades, he was a history professor at the University of Saskatchewan. He is now a full-time writer and public speaker. Bill has published nineteen books, in addition to plying his trade in radio, television, and print media. He's known for an engaging, popular style that draws on the power of stories. His most recent book, In Search of Almighty Voice: Resistance and Reconciliation, was launched at the One Arrow First Nation's community powwow at the request of the Elders.

Bill Waiser's profile page

Leanne Franson spent her childhood winters in Regina and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, building snow forts while her dad watched hockey games on TV. She was a really bad skater -- but she could draw really well! In 1991, after she finished her BFA in Montreal, she started illustrating books. Leanne is fluently bilingual and has worked on books in English and French, illustrating in total over 100 picture books, chapter books, and textbooks. In 2012, she and her teenage son Benn returned to Saskatchewan, where she draws and makes ceramics in her acreage studio.

Leanne Franson's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Gordie's Skate is a timeless tale — about the early days of a hockey legend; his kind-hearted mother; about challenging economic times and hard work; and about a bygone, pre-technological era, when receiving an old pair of skates ignited joy and passion in an athletic child, and that child grew up to become a household name. -- Shelley A. Leedhal in SaskBooks Reviews

Bill Waiser, a historian with two Governor General's medals to his credit... has written his first children's book, entitled, Gordie's Skate. It is wonderfully illustrated by Leanne Franson. The illustrations seem to capture the times in Depression-era, prewar Saskatchewan with images of workingclass homes, a pot-bellied stove, patches on modest clothing, Gordie skating between "old bombs" on a Saskatoon street, and kids playing hockey on a pond (not in an indoor arena). -- Ron Merasty in The Prince Albert Grand Council Tribune

Howe is as much myth and hockey star. He played his final NHL game as a Hartford Whaler in 1980. He was 52 that season and appeared in 80 games and had 41 points, which really tells you just how exceptional Howe was.

So while I was aware of the greatness it was surprising to see a recently released children's book from Thistledown Press in Saskatoon was about Gordie Howe.

The book arrived and it is such a delight even though I am well past being a child.

-- Calvin Daniels in

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