Conor MacRae wants to play in the NHL. But before that, he just hopes to make it onto the AAA peewee team. That means lots of extra time with skating coaches in addition to his regular hockey practices; and since Conor’s dad is a police officer and a single parent, there isn’t much extra money. When Conor’s beloved dog Sinbad gets sick, he must figure out how he can pay for treatment and also make sure he practices enough to reach his AAA hockey goals. In the meantime, he has a lot of other questions: about why his father cries at night, about why his mother’s parents stopped visiting him after his mother died, about what happens when people don’t love the things they used to love, and about why it’s worthwhile working hard even when you fail.
Cynthia Kadohata’s novel may look like a sports story, but it’s actually a slower-paced, contemplative coming-of-age tale about a boy coming to terms with mortality, sadness, and the limits of his own abilities. Kadohata explains, and respects, the sacrifices and commitment of hockey families. Questions of police brutality are also raised through conversations between Conor and his father, although this issue is not the focus of the book. Dog lovers will appreciate the bond between Conor and Sinbad, and sports enthusiasts will be drawn in by Conor’s reflections and conversations about his relationship to hockey.
Naomi Lesley ©2018 Parents’ Choice
Naomi Lesley taught middle and high school English for six years. She is currently in a doctoral program at the George Washington University, focusing on American young adult literature.