The Always Team

28 September 2011

by Holly Preston, illustrated by Val Lawton
Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing
Review by Cindy Wilson
$19.95 ISBN 978-1-894431-51-4

In The ALWAYS Team Holly Preston and Val Lawton bring to life the legacy of being a Saskatchewan Roughrider fan through the eyes and adventures of three small Regina boys. These mop-topped, likeable little guys (Rob, Stevie, and Brendan) love to play football. The problem is they are losing too many games. The meeting they call to correct this problem pivots on the idea of replacing each of them. The boys’ Gramps comes up with a better solution.

Gramps takes the boys to a Roughrider home game where they meet their favourite player, tour the locker room, and ask many questions. At the game they see first-hand all the ideas and practices the Riders use to earn them the title of the ALWAYS team. As Gramps says, “they ALWAYS figure it out”. Watching the Riders play demonstrates to the boys the need for teamwork, to play with heart, and to always remember your fans, the 13th man.

Throughout this easy to read, colourful story we see landmarks Val Lawton’s illustrations have filtered onto every page. We see a large billboard of a Rider player viewed through Gramp’s front windshield. The graceful old houses shown as a backdrop to the boys’ front lawn practise, and their team name the Rae Street Riders, hints to locals of the Cathedral or Lakeview areas of the city. We catch a glimpse of the Regina twin towers covered with banners celebrating 100 years of Rider Pride. A recurring illustration young children will love trying to find is the little gopher Val Lawton has tucked into the scenes on many of the pages.

This story subtly showcases Regina through the activities of Rob, Stevie, and Brendan. We are shown a family-oriented city with a small town feel. A city where kids can safely play on their front lawns and where everyone turns out to support their local sports team. In Saskatchewan, boys who play football ALWAYS dream about being a Roughrider and in Saskatchewan that’s ALWAYS a possibility.

The ALWAYS Team would be a great “read aloud” book for adults to share with very young children. It also would be enjoyable as a “let’s read together” book for children just starting to read. They would have immediate success by recognizing the repeated word ALWAYS. More advanced young readers could easily master the simple, direct text. All ages, from adults to very young children, will enjoy the colourful, expressive illustrations. Adult Rider fans will also get a kick out of all the recognizable illustrated references that are interwoven throughout the story.


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