Friday, January 16, 2009

Hockey Cards and Hopscotch

I was cleaning out a storage room at work a few days ago when I came across a bunch of these books. Apparently they were used as part of a language arts curriculum in the early 70s.

I'm not reviewing it as such because I haven't read it all yet, but it seems to be a real treasure. I know basal readers are not all that fashionable anymore, but I look at these collections, edited by John McInnes and Emily Hearn, more as anthologies. Basal readers, for those of you not in the education field, are collections of short stories, poems, and so forth used in school classrooms, with specific language skills and lessons in mind, often with questions after each selection. They usually come with a teacher's guide, complete with story prompts, worksheets, answer keys, pre and post activities, etc. Critics (self-included) say the supplement materials are often poorly produced (ex. yes/no questions versus critical thinking), overused (without acknowledgement that the particular class may have different learning needs), and overly generalized (all the students using the same text when reading abilities and interests probably vary greatly). Also, they tend to be boring.

I don't know how Hockey Cards and Hopscotch was used. I didn't find a teacher's guide (not to say there wasn't one), nor were there any questions, intrusions of "study tips" or anything besides the reading selections. At a first glance there appears to be a wide variety of pieces; there's poetry, short stories, and even an interview. Well known Canadian authors are represented (such as Dennis Lee and Alden Nowlan) as are lesser knowns (such as Peter Angstad and Eleanor Farjeon). Plus, there seems to be a lot of representation of cultures from sea to sea to sea (including a Haida poem and a short story set in Yellowknife by Jean Rutherford). It also has a lot of interesting and varied illustrations. Asides from a poor representation of nonfiction (except the interview with Foster Hewitt), I can't find a fault with this anthology. If any teacher misused this book, surely the fault lay with him/her.

Of the poetry included, I particularly liked this gem from Raymond Souster:

The Wild Wolves of Winter

The wild wolves of winter
swept through the streets last night. Hate glared
in their eyes like unexploded neon
the wind of their howling a thousand moon-curdling moans

(read the rest here.)

Other anthologies in this series include Driftwood and Dandelions, Northern Lights and Fireflies, and Toboggans and Turtlenecks.


Nikki in Niagara said...

We used these at my school mid-late 70's we also had a workbook to go along with them. I loved them especially for the Indian and Inuit stories. I had never read anything like them anywhere else at the time.

I only have Driftwood and Dandelions at the moment but I'm scouring the thrift shops for the others.

Wanda said...

We used these readers at my school too and like Nicola, I especially enjoyed the Indian and Inuit selections. I remember one story in particular about an Inuit family who left an elder behind to die in the snow. A ten year old me, thought this so sad but strangely beautiful at the time. Can't remember the title but I'd love to read it again!

Living with the ocean at my doorstep, "The Wild Wolves of Winter" often call upon my home. The vicious creatures favour tearing the shingles from our roof before sauntering off.

Anonymous said...

Oh, sigh! I love that wild wolves of winter poem. Oh the imagery and the alliteration. Thanks for sharing it!

raidergirl3 said...

I don't remember these particular anthologies, I had the a Duck is a Duck series (quick, grade one, using that book, let's do rhyming words!)

I credit the use of those anthologies to my appreciation of the short story, because we read and analysed those short selections. Novels for me were fun, and all my own choice.

Yat-Yee said...

Love the line: hate glared in their eyes like unexploded neon. Chills down my spine.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

We had Dick and Jane. I'm amazed anybody became interested in books after that experience.

tanita✿davis said...

Blood-curling moans, sleep-calling beds -- wow! These would really be fun for older elementary students to read aloud. Great imagery.

Anonymous said...

I am intigued by this. Which Eleanor Farjeon piece was used?

John Mutford said...

Nicola: I only remember Mr. Mugs.

Wanda: A lot of Canadians can relate to the wolves of winter, I imagine.

Kelly: And "w" alliteration really captures the sound, doesn't it?

Raidergirl: I remember short stories from my junoir high and highschool anthologies.

Yat-Yee: Eerie, isn't it.

Barbara: There seems to be a resurgence of the Dick and Jane books. Someone gave our kids a Christmas book a couple years ago. I agree with your assessment.

TadMack: I think even younger kids could appreciate it on some level.

Jim: It's a poem called "Jenny White and Johnny Black." I'm not familiar with her and had to Google her.

Allison said...

I remember the Northern Lights version of these books, I do believe. Although there were many types of exercise books in elementary school, I may have it confused with something else!

laurasalas said...

Oh, I really like that! It's a gorgeous one to read aloud, especially emerging from a week of highs below zero, as we are here in Minneapolis.

Anonymous said...

I just googled Hockey Cards & Hopscotch and came across your page. My mother's mother was always a big Canadiana fan and gave my mother Hockey Cards & Hopscotch , and , Driftwood & Dandelions (ty cause I couldn't remember the name of the second one) to read to me.

I was really young but I remember all sorts of poems from it. The biggest claim to fame it has for me though is that because of the Native stories in it, I used to tell my friends at school the stories and tell them that I had a an old First Nations Grandfather (used to use the term Indian back then though) who told me these stories. I lied like a wannabe! I tell people about these books over the years and now I'm gonna break my back looking for where I can lay my hands on them.

Kathleen from Toronto

Shane said...

There were eight different books use by elementary schools throughout Canada, and I've read them all during my school years...'Backpacks and Bumblebees', 'Rowboats and Rollerskates', 'Driftwood and Dandelions', 'Hockey Cards and Hopscotch', 'Kites and Cartwheels', 'Northern Lights and Fireflies', 'Sleeping Bags and Flying Machines', and 'Toboggans and Turtlenecks', all published by Nelson.