September 05, 2023

The Hockey Skates

Written by Karl Subban
Illustrated by Maggie Zeng
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
September 2023

PK had been promised a new pair of skates by his parents. Though it was summer, they were hopeful that he'd have them in time for winter. So his mother ordered a pair of black skates, size 7, with one blade. PK waited patiently for his new skates to arrive, but getting his perfect new skates was not as easy as they'd thought.
From The Hockey Skates, written by Karl Subban, illus. by Maggie Zeng
Ah, the anticipation of that delivery! PK watched and waited and watched some more, until finally the mail carrier delivered a box just for him. But, horror of horrors, the box held a pair of white figure skates! So, PK's mother sends them back, reiterating in her order what she'd told them in the first place: black skates.
From The Hockey Skates, written by Karl Subban, illus. by Maggie Zeng
But, like Goldilocks, the skates were never quite right. Colour, size and type were wrong, wrong, wrong, and with each delivery and the approach of winter, PK and his family became more and more anxious. Would PK ever get his hockey skates in time to hit the ice with the rest of his friends?
From The Hockey Skates, written by Karl Subban, illus. by Maggie Zeng

Karl Subban may be the author of The Hockey Skates, but he is probably best known as the dad to NHL hockey players P. K. Subban, Malcolm Subban and Jordan Subban. As a hockey dad, he undoubtedly has some wild stories about his three sons, and this one, of getting a delivery of hockey skates for PK, will read like a Canadian version of Goldilocks with a touch of Roch Carrier's classic The Hockey Sweater. I don't know if this really happened to P. K. Subban, the professional hockey player, but for PK the child and every child who has ever waited for something special, whether a visitor, a gift, or something on order, the story of The Hockey Skates is very real. It's that mix of anticipation and disappointment that makes it so familiar and plausible, and by bringing humour into the story, Karl Subban makes the repeated letdowns worthy of a chuckle or two. 

The illustrations were created by Montreal's Maggie Zeng who does sweet very well (e.g., Room for More, This is the Boat That Ben Built) and she does it again in The Hockey Skates. But she also gets in on Karl Subban's humour, from making the skates ridiculously small with PK tottering in them and giving her characters amusing, but  honest, expression as they deal with shock, dissatisfaction, confusion, hope and finally success. 

I may be reviewing this picture book on one of the hottest days of our summer (with Humidex, it currently feels like 39°C at my location) but you can bet there are kids already thinking about hockey, whether playing or watching it. And, if they're hoping to play, they'll want to make sure their equipment fits. Hopefully, they won't have to wait months to ensure they're prepared to hit the ice when those lovely cool temperatures and frozen ponds call to them. With a little patience, a whole lot of kismet and opportunity, and by starting now, they should be ready in time.

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