In this hilarious sequel to Deflection, Jake Henry has achieved one of his dreams: to become the goalie for the Bear Claws of the Oshawa Lakeridge League. Then, bad news. The team coach moves away, and without a replacement, the Bear Claws might not finish the season. At first Jake is relieved when one of his three hockey-crazy grandfathers steps into the role. But can the team adapt to Grandpa P.J.'s old-school methods?
BILL SWAN has worked as a journalism teacher, editor and newspaper columnist. His first three novels, Fast Finish, Mud Run, and Off Track are highly recommended by CM Magazine: Canadian Review of Materials. Mud Run was nominated for a Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Award. He is also the author of Corner Kick. He lives in Courtice, Ontario with his wife and daughter.
It is three weeks into the hockey season, and although the Zamboni has barely even awakened from its hibernation, The Roofers can envision a championship win. Thirteen-year-old Jake and his teammates are on fire, having never lost a game - but when Coach Rajah announces that he's leaving, The Roofers suddenly lose all confidence. Rajah assures the team that they have what it takes to carry on without him - even if they were coached by the next guy who walks in the door. Almost as if on cue, Jake's Grandpa P.J. makes a timely entrance, and without much in the way of an alternative, the league decides to hire P.J. as the team's new head coach.
Having played hockey all his life, P.J. is a well-seasoned veteran, but at the team's very first practice, Jake's worst nightmares come true. Grandpa P.J. brings an old-school perspective to the game, and instead of running positional plays or rehearsing face-off drills, the players find themselves in a back-to-basics boot camp, practicing their skating skills, and even learning how to hold a hockey a stick. When the team's star player gets fed up with playing like rookies, Jake struggles to hold his team together while, at the same time, trying not to stomp all over his grandfather's feelings. But as the season's most pivotal game inches closer and closer, this task seems a near impossible one, with everything on the line, and not one second to lose.
From the very first chapter, Bill Swan's sequel to Deflection! is fast paced, action packed, and oh-so-Canadian. The novel's main character, Jake, is but a young Bobby Orr, or Eric Lindros -- and being from small-town Ontario, its not hard to imagine Jake as the next big hockey legend. Young Canadian readers will undoubtedly be able to see themselves reflected in the novel's pages, and with mention of Canada's liquid gold - "Timmy's coffee" - they may even be reminded of a familiar, homey aroma.
Targeted towards the reluctant male reader, Swan's latest novel is perfectly crafted and brilliantly paced. As the story is told via a first person narrative, readers are thrown into the action as if wearing ice skates themselves, and with play-by-play commentary that challenges the excitement and exhilaration of Don Cherry's most animated rant, the novel, itself, acts as a pocket sized version of Hockey Night in Canada. Swan keeps the chapters short, and easily digestible - and at an un-intimidating 136 pages, the novel serves as a quick read that is easy to pick up and hard to put down.
Readers are hit hard with every slap-shot, and every cross-check -- but importantly, Swan delicately balances out this in-your-face action with a subplot that is very much reflective of Jake's internal battle as a burgeoning hockey player. Throughout the novel, Jake learns to become his own "enforcer" (an unofficial "goon" or "tough guy" whose role is to deter and respond to violent play), and, by the end of the book, he is able to follow Grandpa's advice and assert a great deal of conviction and self-confidence as a goalie and as a teenager.
Off the ice, Jake also learns the importance of familial support and respect - a particularly relevant issue considering Jake's situation of living in a blended family. Unfortunately, Swan does not fully resolve the issue of Jake's increasingly absent father; however, readers may very well expect to read about this, and other issues in a (hopefully) upcoming third installment.
Bill Swan's contributions to the "Sports Stories" series are bound to pique the interest of any young sports enthusiast, for he not only writes books about hockey but about soccer and track and field as well. There simply aren't enough books like these on our library shelves - but with Swan ploughing his own furrow in the field of Canadian sporting books, there are likely to be many more in the near future.
Lindsay Schluter is a student of Library and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia.
"Targeted towards the reluctant male reader, Swan's latest novel is perfectly crafted and brilliantly paced".
"The Enforcer is an excellent inclusion in personal libraries of hockey players and a good addition to classroom and school libraries".
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