cover image Sam the Zamboni Man

Sam the Zamboni Man

James Stevenson. Greenwillow Books, $15 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-688-14484-5

Although they are no novices to children's books, father and son combine their talents for the first time in this uplifting intergenerational tale. Visiting from his home in the country, Matt watches his grandfather clear the ice at the helm of a Zamboni, an ice-clearing machine, during a break in a hockey game, and later is similarly awed by the skating prowess of the elder man, a former hockey player. On the last night of the boy's stay, he gets the biggest treat of all: a turn at the wheel of the big blue machine. Harvey Stevenson's watercolor and graphite-pencil artwork creatively absorbs the text, which intermittently runs on the side of the Zamboni, the rink's sideboards or the surface of the ice. The artist effectively contrasts bustling, brightly hued scenes of a fan-filled stadium with quieter moments in which Grandpa and Matt have the arena to themselves and are the focus of some endearing (if occasionally blurry) close-ups. James Stevenson organizes the story into chapters, which makes for a good stepping stone for those picture-book readers ready for wordier volumes. And on the subject of next steps: Grandpa's promise to teach Matt how to skate and play hockey on his next annual visit delivers a welcome hint of a second joint effort by the Stevensons. Ages 4-up. (Jan.)