The Longest Shot tells the story of Larry Kwong, who grew up in Chinatown in Vernon, B.C., during the 1920s and 30s, and became the first Asian player in the NHL in 1948. His is a significant story that is only now beginning to be recognized. However, the text isn’t just facts and figures. The narrative is informed by firsthand knowledge of Kwong’s personal experiences. Soon, as noted in the introduction, was friends with Kwong for 10 years, and the pair had weekly calls and numerous in-person visits. Soon and Chiang paint a detailed picture of Kwong and his life. They write, “Before bed in the winter, Larry would help carry store items like pickle jars upstairs to prevent them from freezing overnight.”
The Longest Shot also provides important context and a valuable history lesson on the experiences of Chinese Canadians in Canada. There were times when some stores would not serve Chinese customers, and when Kwong is told at a barbershop in Vernon that they won’t cut Chinese hair, his perspective is given voice: “It was hard to take … I just had to swallow my pride.” Kwong expresses similar anger and disappointment when he is forced to sit separately from his white teammates on a train.
Reclaiming Kwong’s story of life in small-town Canada and rising up against so much discrimination is both inspiring and aspirational. Qi’s bright, large, and movie-esque illustrations are sure to be popular with children. This real-life tale firmly rooted in history will educate and engage readers, regardless of whether they are hockey fans.