Illustrator Tardif’s picture-book debut is a collection of terms related to 23 different sports, all illustrated with stylized people, brilliant colors and a touch of humor.
Unfortunately, eye-catching though the graphics are, they are not always particularly communicative. At times, it is unclear what is being labelled in the pictures. For example, on the spread devoted to fencing, a competitor’s white bodysuit is divided without comment into eight regions—“tierce,” “quinte,” etc.—leaving readers to wonder exactly what the point is. In the judo entry, two opponents face each other (they either have shoulders in the centers of their torsos or they are holding pool noodle–like objects); the label reads simply “kumi kata.” A red card and a yellow card are depicted on the soccer pages but not explained. (These last three are defined in the glossary but not the mysterious “lamé” in the fencing entry.) Dialogue balloons help readers decode some activities or show competitive spirit: The speed skater calls out “Catch me if you can!” But at other times, it’s as though the author is just yelling “Squirrel!” A “real alligator” on a green results in an “unplayable ball,” and an “impressed bird” says “Wow!” at the height of the pole vaulter. A lover of sports in childhood, Tardif explains in his author’s note that his illustrating leaves little time for sports, but he enjoys drawing while watching hockey on TV. Maybe he was distracted?
While readers will be introduced to sports they may never have heard of before (rowing, cricket), the rudimentary entries will likely leave them frustrated rather than intrigued. (Informational picture book. 3-7)