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My Leafs Sweater

by Mike Leonetti, Sean Thompson, illus.

Young hockey fans and their parents who are frustrated by the lack of picture books on the subject will welcome sports writer Mike Leonetti’s first book for children.

My Leafs Sweater is about a boy obsessed with getting a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater for his birthday. It also relives player Darryl Sittler’s historic performance on Feb. 7, 1976, when he scored six goals and had four assists in one game – something no player had done before. Most adults will realize where the story is going early on, but young readers will get caught up in the excitement of the famous game.

Accompanying the text are Sean Thompson’s simple yet charming pictures, whose folk art quality is well suited to Leonetti’s unassuming style. Because Thompson uses strong colours, such as reds and blues, the winter scenes do not lack warmth. The front cover is especially enticing, although most of the characters depicted are boys.

Comparisons to Roch Carrier’s The Hockey Sweater are inevitable, but the stories are very different – and not just because Leonetti is a Leafs fan and Carrier is not. Carrier’s story is less about hockey than about the trials of childhood and growing up in rural Quebec. By contrast, My Leafs Sweater is aimed directly at hockey fans.

Children will relate to the main character’s disappointment when he doesn’t get a sweater, but that part of the plot mainly serves to set the stage for Sittler’s record-breaking game. The significance of Sittler’s achievement may be lost on readers who know little about hockey, but they’ll probably be in the minority. From the front cover illustration (the main character playing ice hockey with friends) to the profile of Sittler on the last page, My Leafs Sweater is a book for those who love the game.