Gordie’s Skate

By (author): Bill Waiser

Illustrated by: Leanne Franson

Set in Saskatchewan during the Great Depression, this is the story of hockey legend Gordie Howe and his first experience with skating. The book is charmingly illustrated in full colour by Leanne Franson. Bill Waiser is a popular historian and Governor-General’s-Award-winning author. Times were hard for five-year-old Gordie and his family in the 1930s. One day, a neighbour, desperate for some money, sold Mrs. Howe a bag of meager possessions. Inside was something wonderful: an old pair of men’s hockey skates. Even though they were several sizes too large, Gordie and his sister pounced on them. At first, she and Gordie tried skating on just one foot… then holding hands to keep their balance. Eventually, his sister abandoned her skate, and Gordie grabbed it. He never looked back!

Gordie’s Skate is an ode to the love of hockey and a tale about hard times, where a family makes do with what little they had, even eating oatmeal for lunch and supper. It’s also a story about kids creating their own fun, with determination — Gordie and his friends played for hours with little or no equipment. This inspirational picture book shows how people came to depend on one another to endure the Great Depression. Gordie Howe’s long and celebrated NHL career owed much to his mother’s willingness to help a neighbour.

Lively illustrations capture life in Saskatoon in the 1930s, and show how a pair of old skates helped Gordie build skill and confidence and achieve his dreams.


Bill Waiser

Historian Bill Waiser is the author of more than a dozen books, including A World We Have Lost: Saskatchewan before 1905, winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for nonfiction. He is also the recipient of the Governor General’s History Award for Popular Media (the Pierre Berton Award). Bill lives in Saskatoon, SK.

Historian Jennie Hansen has been involved in numerous projects that investigate how nature was understood, appropriated, and administered under British imperialism. She lives in Saskatoon, SK.


Gordie’s Skate is a timeless tale ? about the early days of a hockey legend; his kind-hearted mother; about challenging economic times and hard work; and about a bygone, pre-technological era, when receiving an old pair of skates ignited joy and passion in an athletic child, and that child grew up to become a household name. — Shelley A. Leedhal in SaskBooks Reviews
Bill Waiser, a historian with two Governor General’s medals to his credit… has written his first children’s book, entitled, Gordie’s Skate. It is wonderfully illustrated by Leanne Franson. The illustrations seem to capture the times in Depression-era, prewar Saskatchewan with images of workingclass homes, a pot-bellied stove, patches on modest clothing, Gordie skating between “old bombs” on a Saskatoon street, and kids playing hockey on a pond (not in an indoor arena). — Ron Merasty in The Prince Albert Grand Council Tribune

Howe is as much myth and hockey star. He played his final NHL game as a Hartford Whaler in 1980. He was 52 that season and appeared in 80 games and had 41 points, which really tells you just how exceptional Howe was.

So while I was aware of the greatness it was surprising to see a recently released children’s book from Thistledown Press in Saskatoon was about Gordie Howe.

The book arrived and it is such a delight even though I am well past being a child.

— Calvin Daniels in SaskToday.ca


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24 Pages
8.50in * 10.25in * .12in


April 15, 2023


Thistledown Press



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