Children's Literature - Christina M. Desai
This novel about Yossi, a young Russian immigrant to late 19th century Montreal, reads more like a modern sports story than like historical fiction. Yossi's passion for hockey will resonate with present day sports fans whether or not they have an interest in the period. The author deftly weaves into the plot information about the plight of immigrants as factory workers, the hardships of their life, and the scorn they face both as poor "fresh off the boat" immigrants and as Jews. The novel paints a picture of the mixture of cultures and ethnicities: French, "Anglais" immigrants, Christians, and Jews. However, anti-Semitism is not the focus, since the factory owner, portrayed as rich and miserly, is also Jewish. One thread of the plot involves Yossi's yearning to be accepted by the local French hockey players and his attempts to earn enough money for a pair of skates, while another follows the efforts of workers to organize. Though they successfully strike and do achieve better wages and working conditions without reprisals, an author's note clarifies that such efforts in reality took much longer to bear fruit and involved much more sacrifice. Therefore this book could serve as a good introduction to the labor movement, though interestingly, the jacket copy does not mention this aspect of the plot at all. While most of the interest derives from the lively action rather than the characters, any readers who have ever felt themselves to be on the outside looking in will be able to identify with the hero of this novel.
"Boys will enjoy this engaging fast-paced novel...Schwartz does an admirable job of presenting a complex topic in a brief novel for younger or struggling readers. Highly Recommended."
"Can be used when one needs an immigration story to suggest to boys."
Canadian Teacher Magazine
"Believable, engrossing and provides numerous opportunities for exploring the difficulties of immigrants."
Read an Excerpt
The blond boy led Yossi across the ice, holding Yossi's elbow as his booted feet slipped and slid. He thrust Yossi in front of the snowbank and switched Yossi's woven cap with the red stocking cap of the burly boy. He shoved the boy's stick into Yossi's hands. Shouting something at the others, he batted the lump of coal down the ice.