It takes perseverance to get to the hockey big leagues. There are early morning practices, injuries, and game losses, but for some players – like Bobby Orr – a passion for the game and a respect for its players can make all the difference. The Boy in Number Four, by debut author, Kara Kootstra, and first-time illustrator, Regan Thomson, was published to coincide with the paperback release of Orr’s autobiography, Orr: My Story and documents the hockey legend’s early years in picture book form.
Kootstra’s rhymes are unadorned, making them accessible to even the youngest listeners. They give kids a sense of the repetition involved in practicing, such as passing, shooting, and skating. Orr reveals in his afterword that many illustrations are based on photographs, and in this tale of recollection Thomson uses them to show Orr aging before kids’ eyes. While there is a discrepancy between beginning and ending words and images that puts the timeline of the story into question, there are details here like a signed Allan Stanley Maple Leafs poster in Orr’s bedroom that will delight young and older fans alike. Orr also wears the Parry Sound Shamrock jersey as he plays on an outdoor rink, the Macklaim Construction Team jersey a few pages later, and then two different Oshawa Generals jerseys soon after that.
The Boy in Number Four is both a tribute and a story of perseverance. It will be a memorable reading for sports-loving kids and adults who share in the joy of the game.