October 21, 2013

Home Ice Advantage

by Tom Earle
HarperCollins Canada
224 pp.
Ages 8-13
September 2013

Shame, embarrassment and fear often keep us from exposing our psychological baggage and, in Tom Earle’s newest middle-grade Home Ice Advantage, it’s evident that those in the limelight are especially keen to shun its unveiling. Jake Dumont, 12, may be an outstanding centre for the North York Penguins of the Greater Toronto Hockey League, but the physical and emotional abuse he endures from his father and the vague support he gets from his fearful mother has him giving it all up one night and running away. With very limited funds and supplies, Jake heads to downtown Toronto and finds shelter in the abandoned Maple Leaf Gardens, closed in February of 1999.

But the Gardens already has a resident, an older homeless man named Scooter. Over daily meals at a local soup kitchen, an occasional donut at Tim Horton’s, and regular readings of The Toronto Star, Jake and Scooter share just enough about themselves to realize the complexity of their situations. There is no predictable outcome here when the two find the means to help each other live beyond just surviving.

While details of hockey games and plays, courtesy of teacher Tom Earle’s extensive experiences as a Triple A, college and pro hockey player, provide the background for Home Ice Advantage, it’s the vulnerabilities of the players, too often seen as athletic heroes, that give the story its layering. Underneath the brilliance of game-winning goals, historical blocks and memorable wins (sure to interest young hockey fans) are boys and men with apprehensions, desires and pride. But even deeper they have the instinct to survive. Jake and Scooter may seem to be all about the hockey but Tom Earle’s solid storytelling demonstrates that, when it all comes down to it, their heroics are off the ice, finding the means to prevail when everything is working against them.

(This review was originally written for and published in Quill & Quire, as noted in the citation below.)

Kubiw, H. (2013, November). [Review of the book Home Ice Advantage, by Tom Earle]. Quill & Quire, 79 (9): 36.

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