THERE ONCE WAS A GIRL: AJ
by Maria Siracusa Quinto
Illustrated by Kelly Mare McConkey
Whizbang Film Distribution
Picture Book / Historical
ages 4 to 8
"There once was a girl named AJ and she loved the game of hockey. She saved up her money to get a pair of skates and she practiced really really really hard and she could shoot the puck really really really hard. Way back then, there were not many girls that played hockey so AJ played on a boys team. She soon was faster than anyone on her team. Many challenging things come her way, but that does not stop AJ!" Based on the true story of Angela James, the legendary ice hockey player who broke records in black history, women's history, and Canadian history
A girl's love for hockey mixes with determination to form an inspirational tale.
AJ loved ice skating from the moment she saw it, and when she learned to play hockey, she found her calling. But being a girl at a time where female hockey teams weren't normal, she had to fight for every step of her career.
AJ's desire to do what she loves is something every child (and adult) can connect with, and it's hard not to feel for her when she runs into the problems of finding a fitting team. Her only desire is to play, and the author allows this feeling to come through crystal clear. While many books about historical figures swing toward detailed information, this book steers away from facts and figures. Instead, the general challenges are mentioned, and AJ's dream and joy of playing is kept as the central theme. Only at the end, is a specific accomplishment given, and it's one that rounds off AJ's life nicely.
The illustrations are done in more basic colors and very well done. They allow AJ to gain personality and make her love for hockey clear. I would have liked to have at least one with her out on the ice and in a hockey game, since this was her love. But she's presented very well and so that young readers get a good impression of who she was.
The writing is well suited to the intended age group. I wouldn't suggest it for younger listeners, since the text in comparison to the illustrations is a bit on the heavy side. But it is also a good read for those who are pretty sure of their words. It's a wonderful look at an amazing woman's tenacity and the goals she achieved despite the obstacles she faced.