Thursday, March 17, 2016

Learning from Picture Books: HENRY HOLTON TAKES THE ICE

The illustrations in this book show lots of details about hockey and ice skating. This is another one of the picture books nominated for the Ontario Library Association's Blue Spruce Award. 

Henry Holton’s whole family is hockey mad.  Everyone, that is, except Henry.  When he holds a
hockey stick, Henry becomes a menace to the game—and an embarrassment to his sports-minded family.  It’s not until he sees his first ice dancing performance that Henry realizes there’s something he can do on the ice that doesn’t involve boarding and body checking.  Henry is ready to hang up his gear and try on some figure skates, but first he has to convince his hockey-obsessed family to let him follow his own path.

Henry Holton Takes the Ice, written by Sandra Bradley, illustrated by Sara Palacios and published by Dial Books for Young Readers in 2014.

First line: “Henry Holton’s dad played hockey. So did his mom, his grandfather, his uncle, all twenty-three of his cousins and his big sister, Sally.”

My thoughts as a writer:

The story follows a traditional plot where the main character is different than the other people close to him, and, after trying things their way, is eventually recognized for his own unique talents. I haven’t come across many other books about boys and figure-skating, so I think that’s a real hook to pull me into this story.

The illustrations are fun and contain interesting details, suggesting the illustrator spent a lot of time making observations at skating arenas! I wish there was more ethnic diversity in the scenes with groups of children on ice.

My thoughts as a teacher:

I really liked the message behind the story, since it opens the door to good discussion about “boy activities” vs. “girl activities” and not being limited by gender.  It was nice that Henry’s grandmother had an important role in the story.

Ages: 4 – 8

Grades: K - 3

Themes: individuality, ice skating, hockey, grandparents


Henry’s grandmother surprised him when he found out about her past. Interview one of your older relatives to find out what sports or activities they liked to do when they were younger.

What are some other activities that people think are usually mostly done by girls? Boys? Draw a picture or write a story to showing a boy or girl doing an activity that might be surprising to some people.

For more great picture books, visit author Susanna Leonard Hill's original theme list of Perfect Picture Books on her blog or this theme list with links to Pinterest collections on each theme - a very helpful resource!


  1. You are right that there are not many books that talk about boys and figure skating. This is a great one to fill the gap.

    1. Very true! Thanks for stopping by to comment. :)

  2. What a great book about skating -- whether hockey or figure skating. We need more books like this that bridge the gap between sports. Both girls and boys enjoy both sports. I love the grandmother's role in the story.

    1. I never thought about it as bridging a gap between sports. Very interesting! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. I love when I come across a great review for a book I haven't read yet. This one truly fills a gap.

  4. I like how this book addresses gender stereotyping in a creative way. I agree, though, that the lack of diversity mirrors the lack of diversity on the ice.

  5. An excellent pick. I've been wondering about this topic lately (girl's vs boy's activities), particularly when it comes to ballet. Thanks for the suggestion :)

  6. So great that his mom and sister also played hockey, but Henry can be different. Many layers here. And now I'm intrigued--need to find out more on the grandmother for my own blog (positive aging PB). Thank you Andrea!

  7. Great book to discuss pursing one's dreams and gender conformity.

  8. My daughter just found her passion for ice skating and couldn't find any better skates for her feet than hockey skates! Bet she'll like thi, even though she's 21!

  9. What fun! We need more books about following your heart, whether it's hockey or figure skating or painting....


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