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Then the year is over, and her job is done. But the plants will keep growing, uncurling their stems, stretching their leaves outward and showing their faces to the sun.
- Edith Pattou

On the Line

On the Line
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Winters, Kari-Lynn. (2021). Illustrated by Scot Ritchie. On the Line. Toronto: Pajama Press. ISBN 978-1-77278-218-9. Ages 4-7.

In a read-aloud perfect for conversations about team stewardship and growth mindset, a boy overshadowed by a family of skilled hockey players finds an innovative way to shine.

In Jackson Moore’s small town, his family is known for producing hockey heroes—but he worries that he’ll never measure up to their amazing skills. On the ice he feels like a potato on skates, and his teammates begin to wonder if he really is a Moore. Then, when a shortage of equipment puts his team at risk of losing their spot in the Winterfest Tournament, Jackson makes a game plan of his own and realizes that his problem-solving and stewardship abilities are hallmarks of a true MVP.

Just like Jackson, award-winning author Kari-Lynn Winters grew up playing in the shadow of a big hockey family. In On the Line she demonstrates with heart and humor how scoring goals is not the only path to team heroism. An author’s note furthers the conversation about sportsmanship, teamwork, and building supportive communities. Lively art by award-winning illustrator Scot Ritchie perfectly captures the action on and off the ice as Jackson learns to celebrate the skills he has—and to enjoy the game in spite of the ones he doesn’t.



    CM: Canadian Review of Materials (Oct. 15, 2021)

    Review by Toby Cygman

      Grandpa reminded him. “You’ve got Moore in your blood. You’ll be great!” But…Jackson wasn’t so sure.

    On the Line tells the story of Jackson Moore, a kid who comes from a family of hockey stars. Jackson is expected to follow in his family’s footsteps, but, as it turns out, he is “a potato on skates”. Jackson hopes to help the team another way, and he comes up with a game plan they can follow. This also fails. Jackson then sets his sights on getting his team the proper equipment, without which they will be unable to play in the tournament. Jackson succeeds in this plan and is a hero after all, just not in the way everyone was expecting. A note on team stewardship at the end hammers home that there are many ways to be part of a team.

    The story is told competently enough though with little flair. The characters are diverse, thanks to Ritchie’s clear and colourful illustrations, though none of these diverse characters have any importance to the narrative. Indeed, with the exception of Jackson, the characters are largely flat. The language is appropriate for the recommended age of 5-8, and the large clear font would be ideal for beginner readers.

    The illustrations which are in pencil and ink and finished digitally pop on stark white backgrounds. The pictures have a cartoonish sketchy quality that adds vibrancy. Jackson’s self-doubt is shown in words around his head (“Do I have what it takes?” “What if I fail?”) and his body language.

    Another picture book about a kid who plays hockey, On the Line shows that there is more to sport than athletics. Highly recommended.

    Storytime with Stephanie (Oct. 14, 2021)

    Review by Stephanie Lamb

    Welcome to another hockey season! Many families are hitting the rinks across Canada grateful for a return to the sport they love. You wouldn’t be living in Canada if you didn’t have many different hockey books to enjoy as well. So what makes a hockey book stand out? In On the Line by Kari-Lynn Winters and Scot Ritchie readers get a hockey story with a community twist.

    Jackson Moore comes from a family of hockey players so everyone assumes he is going to be an awesome player himself. He’s a big kid and has all the right equipment but when he steps out onto the ice it’s clear that he hasn’t gotten the family hockey gene. His team is hoping to compete in a local tournament but they are in trouble of not participating because many players on the team don’t have the proper equipment. Jackson becomes a team hero just like the others in his family but maybe not in the way they were all expecting.

    This story gave me some very Mighty Ducks vibes and being a huge fan of the movies and the new series, I really enjoyed this book. I grew up in a hockey family but neither of my kids care to play the sport so at times hockey stories can be a tough sell for us. I know so many hockey fans who will really enjoy this story and so many parents who will love the aspect of community and giving back that Kari-Lynn Winters has built into the text. With the hockey community acknowledging the ways that teams are boosting their communities, it’s a bonus to have a story to help them along. I love that we are seeing stories about kindness and leadership off the ice as well as on the ice. We need to show readers that being a team player and a team leader is more than how they play, it’s how they create opportunities and give back off the ice too.

    Scot Richie’s illustrations are colourful and filled with excellent hockey action. I love all of the team members in their various iterations of equipment, most not appropriate for playing hockey. He creates a beautiful community throughout the story that readers will love.

    Canadian Bookworm (Sept. 9, 2021)

    On the surface this is a tale of a young hockey player finding his place, but it is so much more than that. The central character is Jackson Moore, a boy that lives in a small town where hockey is an important part of the community. Several members of his family have been players that have been great assets to their team, described as hockey heroes. Everyone seems to be looking for Jackson to follow in their footsteps, but he has doubts. Mostly he keeps his doubts to himself while wondering what will happen if he doesn’t live up to these expectations.

    As he joins his first hockey team, the coach and the players are excited to have him on the team, but his actual performance as a hockey player underwhelms them. There is an upcoming tournament called Winterfest that they are looking forward to playing in, but one requirement is regulation equipment. Of course, though it isn’t stated explicitly here, hockey equipment and its costs are one of the major barriers to children joining the game.

    As Jackson tries to make traditional game plans to stay on his feet and impress his team members, he finds the need to rethink and make a different type of game plan entirely to ensure that his team gets to play at all. This part of the story is told in pictures, not words and isn’t clear until the big reveal.

    The book ends with a page on team stewardship and its importance to the overall team spirit and cohesion.

    The illustrations add important elements to the story, showing diversity in the community and on the team, and the level of ingenuity the kids and their parents had used to come up with workarounds on equipment. Without the illustrations, this book wouldn’t say as much as it does.

    Kirkus Reviews (June 29, 2021)

    To be a team player, sometimes you need to think creatively.

    Young Jackson Moore comes from a family of hockey players who swap goal stories at dinner. Grandpa tells Jackson, “You’ve got Moore in your blood. You’ll be great!” But Jackson isn’t so sure, and his first efforts leave him flat on the ice. The other kids think he’s too big and uncoordinated for their team. But they have problems of their own—their mismatched gear will prevent them from competing in the Winterfest Tournament. Jackson, it seems, is good at making plans. His first effort to become a better skater doesn’t pan out, but then he puts his talents toward supporting the team with the gear they need. He finds his true calling and acceptance by the team. Scratchy, bright cartoon illustrations portray a diverse cast of characters, from the team to the audience in the stands. Jackson and his family present White; the coach has brown skin. Bright swathes of greens and blues are punctuated by oranges and yellows, powering a vibrant, eye-catching palette. While it’s not entirely clear why matching gear is needed for the tournament, the plot device facilitates Jackson’s character development and sets the stage for an encouraging story for young readers who struggle with shyness and anxiety. An author’s note offers additional insight to the origin of Jackson’s story.

    Believe in yourself, trust your talents, and find resilience in stories.

    Youth Services Book Review (July 25, 2021)

    What did you like about the book: The simple text and lively illustrations in this book celebrate being a team player, thinking outside the box, and the true meaning of stewardship. Jackson Moore comes from a family of hockey heroes. His grandpa was an all-star and taught him how to make a game plan, hold a stick, and pass a puck. Jackson is not so sure about his hockey skills, he feels like a potato on skates and even his teammates question if he is a Moore due to his lack of skills on the ice. Jackson’s grandpa tells him he is good at making game plans and he gets to work on figuring out the team’s problem: not having the proper equipment to play in their upcoming Winterfest Tournament. Jackson and Grandpa save the tournament and turn Grandpa’s truck into “On the Line,” full of matching equipment for all of his teammates. His problem-solving abilities make him the true MVP! The back pages include an author’s note on team stewardship, teamwork, and building supportive relationships both on and off the ice.

    Anything you didn’t like about it? No

    To whom would you recommend this book? A great read aloud for the introduction of being part of a team, reinforcing perseverance, believing in oneself, and valuing everyone’s talents. This would be nice for coaches to share with their elementary school teams.

    Who should buy this book? Elementary schools, home and public libraries

    Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Julie Durmis, J.C. Solmonese Elementary School, Norton, MA


Winner of the Sports category, Northern Lights Book Awards (2021).

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