Sunday, May 04, 2008

Reader's Diary #354- Stompin' Tom and Brenda Jones (Illustrator): Hockey Night Tonight

When I first came up with a list of suggestions for The Canadian Book Challenge, I added a few children's picture book titles. Yet almost hypocritically, I was reluctant to pick one myself. With such short books, it sort of feels like cheating to meet my 13 quota. But when Sam Lamb recently admitted to feeling the same way when she reviewed Ted Harrison's Children of the Yukon for said challenge, it didn't come across that way. I value children's lit just as much as any other, so it's time I represented (yo).

So my P.E.I. book is Stompin' Tom's Hockey Night Tonight: The Hockey Song, illustrated by Brenda Jones. Most Canadians know this as one of Stompin' Tom's biggest hits (available here through iTunes), and can probably even sing along with that overly complicated chorus... "Oh, the good old hockey game/ Is the best game you name/ And the best game you can name/ Is the good old hockey game."

Reading The Hockey Song, it seems like an obvious idea; that Stompin' Tom lyrics were tailor made for children's books: simple rhythm and rhymes, fun, and in terms of Canadiana, educational. The only other Stompin' Tom song that I know of to be turned into a book is Bud the Spud, also published by Nimbus. (Come on, where's Margo's Got The Cargo?)

My son wasn't instantly attracted to books as was his older sister. For a few months books were primarily thought of a teething aids. Then we discovered that he loved singing books, i.e., songs put into text. So The Mummer Song, Do Your Ears Hang Low?, The Ants Go Marching, and others quickly became part of our bedtime routine concert. But, perhaps the most successful of all was The Hockey Song. He has a thing for sports as well, so there was a double attraction.

Brenda Jones, another islander, did a fine job with the illustrations. Rich, cartoony, and full of little details not part of the main story, it reminds me of long-time Robert Munsch collaborator Michael Martchenko, though without as many interesting angles and an absence of pterodactyls.

In the sub-plot of Jones's illustrations, a family sits down to watch a Stanley Cup play-off game on t.v. but it is clear that the father and daughter are rooting for opposing teams. Throughout it all, she does a great job capturing the nostalgic quality of the song. The sportscaster is most definitely based on the legendary Foster Hewitt and she's chosen the old Montreal-Toronto rivalry (when was the last time that was relevant?).

This morning my son has already had me read six books to him. And though we've moved beyond just songbooks, I thank Stompin' Tom and Brenda Jones for helping instill his love for the written word.


Chrisbookarama said...

Sounds like a good one, and I love that song. It's kind of like 'I's the by's'; I only know the chorus.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Stompin Tom can now add literary booster to his laundry list of Canadiana attributes.

John Mutford said...

Chris: I'm always amazed how many non-Newfoundlanders are familiar with "I's the b'y".

Barbara: I'm picturing wool socks, a read and black lumber jacket, and a tuque.