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The Greatest Goal

by Mike Leonetti, Sean Thompson, illus.

Any Canadian grown-up can tell you all you need to know about how, back in 1972, Paul Henderson scored the dramatic goal that lifted Team Canada to a win over the Soviet Union in the epic eight-game hockey series. Younger readers, though, have likely only heard about “the goal” second-hand from older hockey fans or have seen brief clips of it on TV.
In The Greatest Goal, Mike Leonetti, author of a number of books on hockey – including the excellent 1999 kids book of player profiles, Hockey Now! – brings the 1972 series and its exciting finish to life for younger readers. The story is narrated by a kid named Paul, who’s just about to start his first year in organized hockey and loves to play ball hockey on the driveway and watch the pros on TV with his dad. As the series unfolds, Paul’s narrative of both the games and his own experiences playing league hockey reflect what it was like being a young hockey nut in those days.
But as compelling as the text is, the illustrations by Sean Thompson (who also illustrated Leonetti’s 1998 picture book, My Leafs Sweater) really bring the story to life. Done in a kind of magical realist style, reminiscent of the National Film Board’s classic animation of Roch Carrier’s The Hockey Sweater, the pictures add just the right touch to the kid-narrated text and will convince readers that this is a story told by a kid, for kids.
As an added bonus, the book also contains a complete roster of both Canadian and Russian teams, a game-by-game summary of the series, a short bio on Paul Henderson, and a brief description of just what the Soviet Union was – useful for today’s young post-Iron-Curtain readers.