Captain Skidmark Dances with Destiny

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Pub Date 04 Apr 2023 | Archive Date 04 Apr 2023

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This laugh-out-loud middle-grade novel follows thirteen-year-old Will— who hates hockey and loves dancing—as he navigates school, bullies, and his father’s expectations.

Will is a Canadian eighth grader who hates hockey—and he stinks at it, too. Will is bullied at school, doesn’t have any friends, and is generally miserable.
When Will's seventeen-year-old hockey-star cousin, Alex, arrives to stay with Will’s family, Will and Alex quickly realize they can't stand each other. Then Will stumbles into a local dance school. He fights the urge to cha-cha, but he's good! When Will’s dad finds out about the dancing, he basically forbids it. And Alex’s dad refuses to listen to what Alex wants to do with his life.
Will takes readers on a journey through noogies, awkward conversations, and epic farts. He worries, dances, and makes messes. Filled with humor, nuance, and emotion, this novel asks what makes a family and what makes a man.
This laugh-out-loud middle-grade novel follows thirteen-year-old Will— who hates hockey and loves dancing—as he navigates school, bullies, and his father’s expectations.

Will is a Canadian eighth...

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ISBN 9781623542542
PRICE $17.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 11 members

Featured Reviews

I received an eARC of this book free of charge so I could read and review it. Thank you for the opportunity.

I admit, based on the title, I kind of expected this to be one of those books that 10 yr old boys love, and teachers and librarians have to defend to parents. Instead, I found a really great story about two boys, 13 yr old Will, an 8th grader who stinks at Hockey and has a former NHL player father, and his cousin Alex, a 17 yr old hockey star who is attempting to start over in a new place. The growing of the friendship and brotherly bond, as both teens find their place in the world and have to choose to stand up to familial and societal expectations is well done and feels natural and unforced. This is a strong novel that deserves a place in classroom, school and community libraries, and will appeal to readers who enjoy sports, who enjoy dance, who have parents who they don’t feel understand them, who have older or younger siblings, or who wish they did.

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This was quite the read. While it was intended for middle schoolers (being that the main character is in the 8th grade) I think most all ages will enjoy it. There is that 12 year old boy humor and talk, but the story itself packs a powerful punch. Poor Will. just wants to get through school and life with as little damage as possible, but no matter how hard he tries, he just can't avoid humiliating himself. Add in the school bullies and he's just about a lost cause. He is also trying to make his dad proud, though given his dad's former professional hockey career, he can't play to save his life. He isn't asking to be Mr. Popular, but he would like to be good at just one thing, and he's accidently found that in dance... though if anyone knew he was taking dance class, it would be the nail in the coffin to his demise. There is an emotional element, which I was a little surprised by. I even shed a tear or two. Dealing with bullies, disappointing his parents, living in the shadows of his cousin (the rich and handsome high school hockey star who is staying with the family for the year,) having a secret crush on a girl who barely knows he exists, and just trying to survive. Despite all the things thrown his way, he has a way about him. He goes for what he wants (to an extent.) There is a little bit of romance within the story that was rather cute and sweet. It's a clean read, with just kissing included. Middle Schoolers... remember? :D It's taken strictly from Will's POV. As I said, if you can look past the tween type of humor, you can enjoy this book just as well as any book meant for adults.

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As a grade 3 teacher with students who love hockey, I was excited for a new book for reluctant readers. Unfortunately I think this book would be better suited for older students. Some of the language might be too vulgar for this age group. The main character also describes a lot of negative self talk, with all of the growth mindset discussions and the number of children who experience mental health issues at a young age, this type of character is not an ideal role model. The language in general isn't too graphic but here are some examples from the first page of chapter one: “I was going to murder ...” and “hurt like a mother.” (as in mother F******, but not actually stated). It continues on with lots of name calling that I find a bit excessive. I personally couldn't have a book like this in my classroom library (Grades 3-5), but maybe it would be ok with some middle years teachers. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me the chance to check out this book.

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Kids will love this for the humor and authentic middle school voice. As a middle school teacher, I can say the conversations between characters were very realistic.

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Have you ever read a book that not only made you feel emotions but made you burst out laughing? Made you cry? Made you smile? Well, this book has all of that and more.
The author did an amazing job giving the reader the ability to live in the shoes of a pre-pubescent boy with all of the thoughts, actions, and embarrassing moments a boy might have. The dialogue of the various characters felt so real that you could actually picture them in your mind.
There were a couple of instances of bullying that were hard to get through but that's a reality that needs to change. The author didn't sugarcoat it. It felt very real.
I have already recommended this book to two friends.
And I would recommend it to you.

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Will and his parents have moved to a small town in Canada so that his father, a former professional hockey player, can take a position as a school principal. Will is on a hockey team, but he is not at all good at the sport, and because of his small size, is often picked on by his teammates, especially the vile Artie. As if this weren't painful enough, his cousin Alex is moving from the big city to go to school and play hockey. Alex's family is very wealthy, but the parents are very busy with work, and the details surrounding the reasons he is living with Will are a bit unclear. He's a great soccer player, strapping, handsome guy, but a bit of a jerk. After being pursued by bullies, Will ducks into a local dance studio, where he meets the suave and a bit goofy Jesus, who convinces him to try some moves. Because he gets to dance with Tessa Harper, he's okay with it, and turns out to have a bit of a talent. He starts to take lessons, telling his mother he is at the library. His ruse is discovered by Alex, who uses his knowledge to leverage a meeting with Tessa. When she takes a dislike to him, Alex has Will convince her to go out, and to come along on the date. Alex is actually a nice guy who stands up for Will and is more interested in education than sports, but his father pushes him. Will continues to do poorly at hockey and to struggle with Artie and the other jerks in his school, so he doesn't want anyone to know about his dancing, especially his father. Will had an older brother who died as an infant, and finding this out solidified his feeling that his father was disappointed in him, and that his brother and his cousin are really more of the kind of son his father wants. When Will ends up having a bit of talent as a goalie, his father is excited and signs him up for a goalie camp. Will isn't thrilled, but acquiesces, and gives up his dance dreams. At the same time, Alex's father comes in to town and wants to take him back to play a higher level of hockey in the city. Because Will wouldn't stand up for himself, Alex doesn't either. Will both boys decide to follow their fathers' dreams instead of their own, or will they find their voices?

Strengths: There are a lot of good hockey details, even though Will doesn't like the sport. There are not as many descriptions of the dancing, and while it is played for laughs at first, I liked that Will had a talent for it. There is a lot going on emotionally in both boys' lives. Will was never told about the baby who died, and feels very alone and unsupported. The grandfather, who gives him details, is not a positive role model who can help out. Alex came to the small town because of anger management issues, and seeing the boys grow close and support each other was the best part of this book for me. Will also has a friend, Mike Safi, who lives on a farm and is similarly bullied; this is not explored overly much, but Will does prove himself to be a good friend. I liked that there is a little bit of romance involved, and Will is reliably awkward about it. I think this is a highly relatable title with a style that will appeal to most middle school boys, especially those who have mixed feelings about sports.
Weaknesses: Frequent readers of my blog know that I am basically a 12-year-old boy in my reading preferences, but it turns out there is a limit to the amount of time I can read about people getting hit in the nuts. Fart jokes are great, but they need to be more nuanced. Also, not sure we ever need to read descriptions of girls' breasts in any middle grade literature, and there are a couple of instances when Will "pitches a tent" that I could have done without. While all of these middle grade moments are okay in moderation, there were just too many of them for me to feel comfortable handing this to students. I was not fond of the grandfather's use of the term "peckerwood", either.
What I really think: I will probably purchase this, despite the content. It's not horrible, but since I do so much hand selling, I'd rather the book didn't have these things. It does have a lot of hockey details in it, and there are a good number of my students who have read all of the Sigmund Brouwer titles and want something new. It will check out about as much as Kadohata's Checked, which goes out four or five times a year, making both of these hockey books good investments.

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There's a lot to like in this Canadian middle-grade novel. The combination of juvenile humour (fart and boner jokes abound) with weighty themes (belonging, bullying, first love, friendship, and individuation) will engage and delight middle-grade readers. As an added bonus, the frenemy relationship between Will and Alex is one of the novel's greatest strengths.
However, some elements of the novel were cringy. First, some young female characters are devolved into the sum of their physical parts. And much attention is given to the philosophical question of “What is a real man?” which included some misogynistic and homophobic language with the gay slur “pansy” used more than once. A few times, I actually put the book down to ponder, "It's 2023, are we really still having this discussion?" Disappointingly, the novel's conclusion gives little adult intervention to this pre-teen version of toxic masculinity.
Did I enjoy the book? Sure. Will I buy this book for my classroom? Probably. Will I read it to a class as a read-aloud? *shudder* Absolutely not...the idea of reading a colorful description of a young woman's breasts is hor-ri-fy-ing. Will I recommend this book to students? To a reader who likes (or hates) hockey and has no misconceptions about outdated gender norms, sure. But mostly, I’ll just add it to the book shelf and let the colorful title speak for itself.

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"I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own."

This book was not what I was expecting at all, as I totally judged a book by it's cover.

It's a book that goes deep and truly had the voice of a middle schooler. The insecurities, the pressure and many different relationships with the people around them.

The things that may draw middle schoolers is also the reason I can't justify having it in my classroom.
The suck it's, peckerheads and drawing giant penises are a view examples.

Great book but I see some kids may not be mature enough to take it seriously

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This book brought many chuckles. I was sad that the kid was bullied, but I like the process he went through to overcome it.

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For someone who knows nothing about hockey and has never seen a game, I read a suspicious amount of books about hockey players.
Alas, I absolutely loved Will and his predicament - hating hockey when you're the son of an absolute NHL legend - and how he dealt with all the expectations that placed on him from a young age on. Will has so much to deal with on top of the expectations: bullies, growing up, secret crushes and so much more.
The writing flowed super easily and it felt like I was inside Will's head which just kept me rooting for him to have everything he deserved.
Clear recommendation, for fans and haters of hockey!

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