|This article was written by Craven Todd and originally appeared in Prairie Books Now:|
Going for Gold
Falcons Gold represents many of the qualities that make Canadians great..
A reverence for storytelling and its traditions is what compelled Kathleen Arnason to write Falcons Gold: Canada's First Olympic Hockey Heroes.
"My Icelandic background has provided me with great respect for oral history and the joy stories bring," says Arnason, a Queen's Jubilee Medal recipient and 'hockey mom' who wrote the book in collaboration with Manitoba artist Luther Pokrant.
Falcons Gold tells the story of the Winnipeg Falcons, Canada's first gold medal winners in hockey history. Their triumph has been overlooked by some sports historians because hockey was a demonstration sport at the 1920 Olympic Winter Games.
Falcons Gold was written partially to address that lack of awareness, and perhaps more importantly to pass the history on to children in a story that both entertains and informs.
"Bringing history to children can open windows of conversation," says Arnason, a children's author and poet whose previous work includes The Story of the Gimli Huldufolk and The Legend of the White Horse. "Storytelling is powerful and it's something that can bring joy and inspiration to the reader."
In Falcons Gold, young Erik's grandfather hands him a puck he caught at the 1920 Olympic hockey game. With a bit of magic, Erik begins an adventure that leads him back in time and place to the very game where his grandfather caught the puck. Along the way, Erik learns about the team and its achievements.
While Arnason's story relates the Falcons history, Pokrant's illustrations serve to illustrate the Falcons' triumph and the era in which it was achieved. Pokrant also created the mural Falcons Forever, which commemorates the team's achievements and is currently on display in Gimli, Manitoba.
The illustrations represent the Falcons as they appeared in 1920, but Pokrant has blended history with fantasy to capture Erik's fanciful journey to the scene of the Falcons' triumph.
Arnason believes that Pokrant's illustrations greatly enhanced her story. She alludes to the fact that readers can "touch the story" as they read, and says "Luther was exceptional in that I sometimes wonder if he leaps universes and actually goes and meets his images.
Arnason hopes the children who read Falcons Gold will take away some understanding of the team and its heroism. She also wants the reader to recognize the deeper significance of the Falcons' achievement.
"When you look at success you should know it is not about the final goal but how you got there and with whom," she says. "I hope they also learn that heroes are people who never give up."
The book represents many of the qualities that make Canadians great, qualities the reader will recognize and enjoy whether reading alone or sharing the book with children.
"I hope that some, if not all, Canadians will feel proud of the heroes in Falcons Gold," she says. ""I hope readers will reflect on the team's characters, their friendships, their humour and determination, and their ability to dream."