Friday, April 16, 2021

Hockey Night in Kenya and The Comeback

Mutinda, Danson and Walters, Eric. Hockey Night in Kenya
Published October 13th 2020 by Orca Book Publishers
Library Copy

Friends Kitoo and Nigosi have had difficult lives in Kenya, but are now living at an orphanage where they are able to attend school regularly. Even though the food is usually githeri (corn and beans) rather than their favorite pilau, both boys are hopeful. Kitoo is a big reader, and Mrs. Kyatha at the school library gives him some damaged books for his own. One of these is about hockey. While Kenya doesn't have a lot of ice, there is some ball hockey that is played. When the two boys travel to the city with Jackson to get supplies, they see some hockey being played, and Kitoo even finds damaged roller blades that he is allowed to take home, and the team even gives him some chipped wheels to help. Kitoo starts to practice hockey, and when he gets a chance to travel to Nairobi, he gets to give ice hockey a try. This is based on an event at Mr. Mutinda's orphange when Canadian hockey players visited. 
Strengths: The more I find out about Mr. Walters, the more impressed I am! He and Mr. Mutinda work together as Creation of Hope to help orphans in Kenya, and this book is based on their experiences there. The fact that Kitoo and Nigusi are able to remain optimistic and work to make their dreams reality is definitely inspiring. I am learning more and more about hockey, thanks to all of the Canadian books out there, and I do have a fair number of students who play ice hockey. 
Weaknesses: I would love to see a longer book for older readers about sports loving students in Kenya!
What I really think: This is a great title for emerging middle school readers as well as elementary ones. I love books set in other countries; it's great for my students to realize that people in other parts of the world don't live exactly as they do. 

O'Brien, Alex. The Comeback
August 1st 2020 by Lorimer Children & Teens
Library copy

Chris played hockey, but after an injury kept him away from sports altogether, he's struggled with serious depression. His parents have made sure that he is in therapy and getting help. He talks to his best friend, Keiko, about getting back to playing sports, and she suggests he look into her brother Reo's soccer team. One of the teammates, Trent, is really nasty, and Chris talks to his coach about explaining to his teammates his struggles with depression. Most of the team is supportive, especially Farid, who has recently come to Canada to Syria. He lived in refugee camps for a while, and had seen many upsetting things on his journey out of his country, so understands how serious depression can be. Chris struggles to get back in shape, and sometimes doubts himself on the field. Trent doesn't help, but the coach is very supportive, and even tells Chris that he struggled with anger management issues for a while. Soccer seems to help Chris' outlook on life, but how will he handle it when things on the field don't go his way. 
Strengths: This is a great high interest, low level book for readers who might be struggling with longer books but want something with a lot of sports descriptions as well as serious issues. It's balance fairly well between friend drama, soccer descriptions, and information about Chris' depression. 
Weaknesses: I wish we had seen more of Keiko in the book. While it is good that there is a lot of information about Chris' condition, the discussions occasionally slow the book down. 
What I really think: This is on trend as far as mental health issues go. I have a lot of readers who like soccer books, and the Lorimer titles are short, include diverse casts of characters, and have lots of good soccer details. 
 Ms. Yingling

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