Kootstra manages to breed a saxophone to a hockey stick and produce one sweet boy.
It’s the start of grade six. Enough said. But Jay Roberts kind of likes junior high. Home is Parry Sound, Ontario, a small, largely white burg on the shores of Georgian Bay, where Jay gets to exercise his obsession eight months of the year: hockey. And…the peerless Bobby Orr was born in Parry Sound. (Orr is important to the story, so it’s too bad he is summed up as “easily skating around his opponents to find his way to the net for a goal or, if his team was unable to score, fading back to play his position as a defensemen.” Good thing that Orr’s reputation precedes him.) Two nemeses will test Jay’s patience and confidence this year: bully Mick and the saxophone, an instrument Jay gets saddled with and for which he has little affection. But this story has the buoyancy of a life preserver, and humor’s sprinkled around like salt on an icy sidewalk. “All your father and I expect of you is to do your best, your very best, at whatever you do, and try not to throw up.” With a cool hand, Kootstra also gives hidden depths to band geek Ben, draws the commonalities between a stick and a sax, tells two convincing stories about confidence and the journey being the point, and fashions a sharp visualization to end the tale.
Orr’s afterword has the final words—on passion, struggle, respect—qualities Kootstra has spun into her story with understated dexterity. (Fiction. 8-12)