1775 The hockey talisman
Elliot Jelly-Legs and the Bobblehead Miracle
by Yolanda Ridge (text) and Sydney Barnes (illustrations)
Victoria: Orca Book Publishers, 2023
$12.95 / 9781459833791
Reviewed by Cassidy Lea
In Canada, hockey is kind of our thing. A lot of us have played it, a bunch of us watch it, and if most of us were asked to say the top few things that come to mind when someone says “Canada,” hockey would be high up on the list. Yolanda Ridge’s protagonist, eleven-year-old Elliot Feldner-Martel is pretty much your average Canadian. He plays hockey in the road with his friends, plays mini sticks in the basement with his best friend Duncan, and he desperately wants to play on one of Trail, BC’s, house hockey teams again this year. The only problem is, his immediate family just isn’t that into hockey. His Mom’s busy running for Mayor, his Dad thinks it’s too expensive, and his sister Aislyn is much more concerned about her Change Climate Change project than about his hockey aspirations. Only his Grandpa really understands his love of hockey, but since he lives on the other side of the country, he can’t be of much help. Although the truth is, Elliot doesn’t want much: he just wants to fit in on the team, have some fun, and not look like a complete dork because he doesn’t know how to skate.
His parents decide to sign him up for hockey again, and he’s just happy to have a chance to play. But when the goalie gets injured and Elliot volunteers to take his place, he’s really thinking about three things: he “wouldn’t have to skate as much…[He’d] still get to play hockey. Plus [he’d] be an important part of the team” (p. 23). Except it doesn’t quite work out that way. He’s definitely an important member of the team, but unfortunately, he’s just no good at being a goalie. And being able to skate is still an important component of being a hockey goal tender, so his “jelly-legs” aren’t any less noticeable. After getting completely pulverized in his first game in net (it’s so bad they actually stop counting score for the other team) Elliot asks his Carey Price bobblehead – a small doll or figurine — for a win. And then it happens. Before he knows it, pre-game confabs with the bobblehead are part of his ritual. But maybe the wishes aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Pretty soon, instead of feeling happy about his progress as a goalie, Elliot starts to feel trapped. What if his teammates knew about his wish-granting bobblehead, star goalie with the Montreal Canadiens? What if they found out that he was a fraud, that he wasn’t actually a good goalie, but only riding the high of a magic goaltender bobblehead? He might be winning hockey games, but suddenly the game is not as much fun as it used to be. Things start to fall apart off the ice too. His Grandpa gets sick, his parents are fighting, and Duncan’s suddenly spending a bunch of time with the old goalie, and not with him. What will it take for Elliot to start believing in himself as much as he believes in the Carey Price bobblehead?
Geared towards middle schoolers, Elliot Jelly-Legs is an entertaining story that will appeal to both boys and girls, and that includes the perfect mix of heartwarming and hockey. Acting as an important reminder that there is more to life than winning hockey games (and winning at other things too), Elliot Jelly-Legs and the Bobblehead Miracle will encourage preteens that failing doesn’t make you a failure, that sometimes “the best achievements are the ones you earn on your own,” and that Wayne Gretzky, “the Great One,” may have been right when he said that “you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take” (pp. 185, 199).
Written in first person, Elliot Jelly-Legs gives readers a front row seat into the mind and life of Elliot. Authentic, relatable, realistic Elliot will worm his way into the hearts of readers and will have them cheering him on. Hockey fans will appreciate fast paced depiction of the on-ice action, as well as the inside look (for those of us who haven’t actually played on a hockey team) at locker room banter. The hockey card illustrations done by Sydney Barnes are a fun ode to a typical sporting extra and a helpful way to keep track of all the characters.
Elliot Jelly-Legs is a fun hockey story that manages to stay lighthearted even while probing bigger issues. Readers will join Elliot as he navigates family and friendship — and learning that self-confidence might be the biggest miracle of all.
Cassidy Lea is a Thompson Rivers University alumnus with a double major in English and psychology. She loves reading and writing, but isn’t too fond of arithmetic. She enjoys going for walks, curling up with a good book, and spending time with her family. Editor’s note: Cassidy Lea has also reviewed books by E.G. Alaraj & Martyna Czub, LS Stone, Trevor Atkins, Frances Greenslade, and — writing as Cassidy Jean — Natelle Fitzgerald for The British Columbia Review.
The British Columbia Review
Publisher and Editor: Richard Mackie
Formerly The Ormsby Review, The British Columbia Review is an on-line book review and journal service for BC writers and readers. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Wade Davis, Robin Fisher, Barry Gough, Hugh Johnston, Kathy Mezei, Patricia Roy, Maria Tippett, and Graeme Wynn. Provincial Government Patron (since September 2018): Creative BC. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies.
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