Book reviews

What does it take for a sport team to succeed?
The best in children’s reading
Chinese immigrants 
in Ottawa
Murder and mystery in snowy Ottawa
Tasty transitioning to raw food


Power Play: The Business Economics of Pro Sport
, by Glen Hodgson and Mario Lefebvre

Reviewed by Joe Scanlon

power_play_livre

This book attempts to define what it takes to be financially successful in professional sports. Although it mentions European football (soccer), it focuses on the National Hockey League (NHL), the National Football League (NFL) and the Canadian Football League (CFL), with less attention to the North American Soccer League (NASL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA).

I found it interesting for two reasons. First, I was curious to know if the new professional football and soccer teams at Lansdowne Park could be successful. Second, as part owner of a professional soccer team, Kingston FC, I wondered about our chances of financial success. Hodgson and Lefebvre list four pillars for financial success: market size, income levels, a strong corporate presence and a “level playing field.” They add that these conditions can be undermined without adequate playing facilities, ownership and management strength, and fan support. They say that teams are more successful in larger communities, where people have good incomes, where there are corporate headquarters and where the sport wants all teams to be successful. The “socialist” (their term) NFL is the most successful because owners share equally more than 80 per cent of revenue (including TV revenue) and there is a salary cap. Even ticket revenues are shared. The result is that every team has a chance to win every season. They contrast the NFL with major league baseball where wealthy teams like the New York Yankees continually out-spend others; Toronto Blue Jays compete with teams with more financial resources. The chance of another Blue Jay appearance in the World Series is slim.

The criterion most relevant to Ottawa is market size. The authors produce precise numbers and say there is an additive effect: if a community needs a population of 250,000 to support a CFL team and 350,000 to support a NASL team, it needs 600,000 to support both. For example, Toronto needs 770,490 people to support the Maple Leafs, 234,410 to support the Argonauts and 339,530 to support Toronto FC. That totals 1,344,430. That still leaves enough for the Raptors. In 2010, Ottawa-Gatineau had a population of 1.239 million, close to the minimum to support hockey, football and soccer. By 2035, the authors predict, the population will have risen to 1.704 million. Ottawa, in short, is heading towards having a population base that can support three teams, but not enough to add major league baseball or NBA basketball. This should make anyone considering a baseball or basketball franchise cautious.

While this part of their model is supported by examples and numbers, the other three criteria are less so. It is easy to grasp the need for adequate playing facilities: if you need 15,000 fans per game and your capacity is 10,000, obviously you have a problem. But while the authors give examples of good and bad management, they do not really define what that means. In fact, in my opinion, the weakness in the book is that they don’t shed light on what makes good and bad management. They might have found it useful to examine the Harvard Business School study of the success of Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United. (Elberse, Anita, and Thomas Dye. “Sir Alex Ferguson: Managing Manchester United.” Harvard Business School Case 513-051, September 2012).

But the fan-support element is the most ambiguous; the authors spend some time discussing the Toronto Maple Leafs and their continuing fan support despite a lack of success on the ice, and the collapse of the Ottawa Rough Riders and Montreal Expos. There were undoubtedly real problems with management in Ottawa, but the Expos suffered from some devastating blows unrelated to management, such as a players’ strike that destroyed their best season.

When I applied the criteria to Kingston FC, I found the analysis interesting. There is a fan base for soccer in Kingston, but there are five teams in the Toronto area – too many to develop a fan base there. My team does have adequate and improving playing facilities as well as strong management. But the league does little to share revenues, and there is no salary cap. I suspect (and hope) Kingston FC is a little like the New York Yankees: it looks as if we will be able to continually out-spend and out-do the other teams, especially if – as seems to be happening – our fan base grows. That may be good for Kingston but not necessarily good for the league.

Joseph Scanlon has been involved in sports as a player, coach, manager and now owner for most of his life. He writes a monthly column on sports for the Ottawa South community paper, OSCAR.

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Time for a change: The best in children’s reading

by Ildiko Sumegi

For many of us, and especially for children, June is a month of transition. Goodbyes are said, the comfort of the old and familiar is left behind, and we have to confront (with excitement or trepidation) something new. Here are a few books for different ages featuring strong, witty and insightful female protagonists who find themselves experiencing change or facing a novel situation.

The Hello, Goodbye Window (Michael Di Capua Books, 2005) by Norton Juster, illustrated by Chris Raschka

Picture 7 Summer is a wonderful opportunity to spend some extended time with grandparents, and that is exactly what this book is about. Written by Norton Juster (of Phantom Tollbooth fame), The Hello, Goodbye Window is a picture book for ages three to six. The story is told from the perspective of a little girl visiting her grandparents’ home. She details all of the important happenings of the visit such as the breakfast Poppy makes for her, the tiger she believes to be living in the garden, and the sticks and acorns she collects. The Hello, Goodbye Window of the title is actually her grandparents’ kitchen window. It is through this window that she and her grandparents witness the changes in the world outside: they greet the new day, see the stars at night and catch the neighbour’s dog “doing stuff” in Nana’s garden. It is also the window through which one can see visitors before they knock at the door or blow kisses to guests after they have left. When her parents finally come to pick her up and it is time for her to say hello to them and goodbye to her grandparents, the little girl wisely remarks, “You can be happy and sad at the same time, you know. It just happens that way sometimes.”

Just Grace and the Super Sleepover (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012) by Charise Mericle Harper

Picture 3 New experiences are often anticipated with some concern. In Just Grace and the Super Sleepover, Just Grace realizes that a birthday party sleepover will actually be a camp-out in her friend’s backyard, and as she’s never been camping before, she is plagued with worry. Observant and witty, Charise Mericle Harper has a knack for picking up on those seemingly small events that loom large in the lives of children. She writes from the perspective of Just Grace, an elementary student who harbours the superpower of all superpowers… empathy power! Over the course of the story, Just Grace gradually overcomes her fear of camping and contends with a lie that snowballs out of control. This is a fun read for ages seven to nine. The text is broken up into short sections interspersed with funny drawings, giving young readers time to pause and take a breath.

Everything on a Waffle (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2001) by Polly Horvath

Picture 2 Change is not always for the best, and if you think that your summer is off to a poor start, I invite you to meet Primrose Squarp, whose parents have recently been lost at sea. Set in Coal Harbour, British Columbia, this book is a Canadian gem and well deserves the Newbery Honor it was awarded in 2002. There is a thoughtful, philosophical bent to the narrative offered up with a good dose of humour. Memorable chapter titles include, “I am almost incarcerated,” “ I lose a toe” and “I set fire to a guinea pig.” As Primrose finds herself living first with her elderly babysitter, Miss Perfidy, then with her Uncle Jack, and briefly with foster parents, Bert and Evie, she seeks advice, a friendly ear and cooking tips from Miss Bowzer, owner of a restaurant called The Girl on the Red Swing, where everything – everything – is served on a waffle! And while the entire town has given up hope of ever finding her parents, Primrose remains confident that they will return one day. In the meantime, life carries on and Primrose finds some focus in collecting recipes, which she records on her mother’s little notepad; in fact, every chapter ends with one such recipe. This book would make great summer reading for ages 10 and up.

Glebe resident and attentive reader Ildiko Sumegi shares her love and insights into children’s stories with adults and children alike.

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Lives of the Family: Stories of Fate & Circumstance, 
by Denise Chong

Reviewed by Wendy Robbins

Picture 5 The process of immigration is like passing through a sieve, writes Denise Chong. “The family begins with the weight of yearning for a better life, and hopes to be left with the essential attributes of success.” Chong’s new book, Lives of the Family: Stories of Fate & Circumstance, takes us through that complicated passage. The “essential attributes of success” become clear though the 12 linked chapters. They tell the stories of Chinese immigrants who settled in and around Ottawa, newcomers whose perseverance, hard work, and loyalty to family were the ingredients that enabled them to start new lives and over time, to help change the face of this community.

Lives of the Family presents vivid depictions of hardship and loneliness, and celebrates the pleasures and strengths of community ties. It also holds surprises, illuminating hidden aspects of Ottawa’s mid-20th-century history, which come to life through the eyes of individuals whose voices we don’t often hear when the stories of this city are told. Among a handful of Ottawa families of Chinese origin, we meet two young women living in the shadow of the Colonial Furniture store on Bank Street in Centretown (remember that?). Landing in Ottawa in the 1950s, both have been sponsored, one as a bride, the other as a “paper family” member (explained below), a teen living as a domestic with the family that had financed her immigration. Their individual stories encompass many of the typical experiences of the other Chinese immigrants we meet in this book: long hours working in a Chinese restaurant; marriages arranged by far-away family; isolation in a cold, English-speaking country, and a sad history left behind in China, encompassing rural poverty and the brutality of the Communist Land Reform. But their eventual friendship clearly sustains them. A description of the two, pushing baby carriages down Bank Street, across the brand new (in 1961) Sparks Street pedestrian mall, and down to the Byward Market, lingers in the mind.

Chong’s book reveals details of the newcomers’ life in Ottawa, from crushingly long working hours, to friendships created around the mah-jong table, to the challenge of finding authentic Chinese food ingredients. Although Albert Street hosted a two-block stretch of Chinese-run businesses, including two grocers, ordering foodstuff from the larger Montreal or Toronto Chinatowns was common. The Chinatown we know now came with the arrival of Hong Kong immigrants in the late 1960s.

These are also the stories of isolated Chinese families in small towns throughout the region, from Perth to Pembroke to Brockville, places where it was possible for families “to go months on end without seeing another Chinese face.” Imagine the loneliness of a sixteen-year-old sponsored bride who arrives from Hong Kong to meet members of her new family at their Carp truck stop, who looks around wondering “where are all the people?” And the owners of Harry’s Café in Perth, who take a rare break to drive around the Ottawa Valley to visit the sole Chinese families in other eastern Ontario towns.

There are commonalities in all immigrant stories: from dislocation to adaptation. But as Chong makes clear, Chinese immigrants in Canada faced very specific challenges in the form of racist legislation. The “head tax,” meant to discourage Chinese immigration after the building of the CPR, was replaced in 1923 by the “Exclusion Act,” which banned most Chinese immigration. Chinese men who had come earlier to work could not bring their families, nor could they become naturalized Canadians. Canada loosened its rules later, allowing some sponsorship of wives and children; this led, Chong writes, to “a brisk illegal trade” in ‘paper families,’” where the real offspring were either still in China or had died. The possibility of a new life in Canada meant a chance to escape miserable poverty and brutal war and its aftermath in China. But the cost was often the strain of ongoing deception, and the suppression of secret personal histories.

Lives of the Family is actually an offshoot of an earlier online project of the Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre (OCCSC), an education website called LivesOfTheFamily.com. Denise Chong worked on that project, and her research led her to pursue the stories of families and individuals for this book. It actually feels a bit like a website, one story linking to another, through time and across the country and the region. This can lead to some confusion for the reader, given the similarity and repetition of names and unfamiliar kinship descriptions. But the rewards of untangling the threads are very real for readers interested in the cultural makeup of Ottawa. The website is beautiful, and well worth visiting on its own or as a companion experience to Chong’s book.

Producer and librarian Wendy Robbins’ recent documentary, “Aging by the Book,” was broadcast as part of the CBC radio program Ideas.

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Cold Mourning, 
by Brenda Chapman

Reviewed by Gillian Campbell

Picture 1In Cold Mourning, local author Brenda Chapman has created a gripping, nicely paced and at times edgy murder mystery. Set against the backdrop of a cold and wintry Ottawa, Cold Mourning is the first book in Chapman’s Stonechild and Rouleau mystery series. Chapman has paired the taciturn Officer Kala Stonechild with the more engaging Staff Sergeant Jacques Rouleau. New to the Ottawa Police Force, Stonechild is assigned to the special division of the Major Crimes Unit geared to preventing crimes and solving tough cases. Rouleau, in charge of this division, is facing much internal opposition to his group. He needs his team to solve some cases and fast.

When local businessman Tom Underwood disappears, it’s Stonechild’s job to track him down. After he is found murdered, Stonechild and her team are under pressure to solve the crime before the Major Crimes Unit takes over. The resulting mystery takes the reader all over the Ottawa region, from the Glebe to Kanata, from Westboro to Gatineau Park. Chapman’s descriptions of the area are great – and for those of us who know Ottawa well, it is always a pleasure to read a story based here.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this mystery. The main story is well crafted with lots of action and interesting twists and turns. My only criticism of the novel is in Chapman’s use of coincidence. It does play a significant part in influencing several turns the story takes, and while her use of it is not over-the-top, it does make the story slightly less believable in its resolution. This is a minor issue, however, and should in no way discourage anyone from reading the book. What I like most about the novel are Chapman’s characters – all sorts of interesting people, many of whom have good motives for wishing Tom Underwood dead. Although the focus may have been on telling a compelling mystery story, the author has also provided enough background for many of the characters to give them their own history.

I find Officer Kala Stonechild the most interesting character, although she is not an immediately likeable person. She has had harrowing personal experiences that make her seem detached from the people around her. Slightly off-putting at first, Stonechild grows on the reader. As we get to know her, we see that she has more depth than many one-dimensional murder-mystery protagonists. For example, the opening scene of the novel is intense and disturbing, and does not seem to relate to the murder in the story. At first, I questioned why Chapman would include such a disturbing incident (I nearly stopped reading the book!), but as I delved further into the main story I understood that this initial incident helps us have a better understanding of Stonechild. I think it is this depth that makes Cold Mourning stand apart from the average murder mystery.

I also like the way Chapman gives Stonechild substance by filling in details of her personal life. Part of the reason that Stonechild, an aboriginal woman, takes the job in Ottawa is to track down a long-lost friend from childhood, Rose. The girls had shared the horrible incident described at the beginning of the book, and Stonechild has spent much of her life wanting to find her friend. When they parted as children, they made a solemn vow to find each other once grown up, no matter what. Taking this vow seriously, Stonechild spends every spare minute looking for Rose.

What I found poignant is that when she does find her friend, Stonechild realises that her quest has been one-sided. Their lives have taken different paths, and while Rose lives strongly in Stonechild’s mind, at the end of the novel she realises, “she’d invented a relationship… She’d been crazy to believe the bond between her and Rose was real. Rose was only a childish fantasy that kept her going through years of having nobody.” Although only a subplot to the main story line, I found it a thoughtful observation about the nature of human relationships.

At the end of the story, the two plots work together as a whole, and the result is a great read – and the book’s cold setting would make it a refreshing read by the beach on a hot summer’s day! You can buy Cold Mourning at Brittons Glebe, at many Chapters locations, and through Amazon.ca, as a print or e-book.

Brenda Chapman, who lives in Ottawa, is also the author of many children’s books and of another mystery for adults, In Winter’s Grip. She is an active member in many writers’ groups and has a website at: www.brendachapman.ca

In addition to writing reviews and proofreading at the Glebe Report, Gillian Campbell is currently honing her skills in business writing and editing.

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The Simply Raw Kitchen: Plant-Powered, Gluten-Free, and Mostly Raw Recipes for Healthy Living, 
by Natasha Kyssa

Reviewed by 
Dorothy A. Phillips

Full disclosure: I am not a raw foodist, vegetarian or vegan but I am interested in healthy eating. Glebe resident Natasha Kyssa’s book is for people like me who are not yet ready to go fully raw, but are willing to try out a few recipes. All the recipes in this book are vegan – no animal products at all – and only gluten-free grains.

To start my research, my husband and I had a meal at Natasha’s restaurant, Simply Raw Express, 989 Wellington Street West (613-234-0806). I ordered a cooked dahl (lentil stew) with quinoa and a power smoothie; my husband, a vegetable soup. Each dish was tasty and filling, but we both had room for dessert: mine a date square, deliciously sweet and nutty, and his, a scrumptious vanilla macaroon.
Later Natasha and I talked in her tiny restaurant; four tables inside, a couple more outside for sunnier weather and lots of dishes for take-out. It’s a family-run restaurant. Her mother, Ilse Kyssa, who contributed to the book and is well known in the Glebe – she started The Pantry – at age 86 still works at the restaurant two days a week. Natasha’s first book, The Simply Raw Living Foods Detox Manual, was too extreme for many, she said. This second book is for those who want to transition to more raw, healthy foods. Even in transitioning slowly, your body will cleanse, she claims.

How satisfying are these recipes? Since I liked the date square at the restaurant, I tried Date-Me Squares. It took a long time to make, starting with blending shredded coconut to make flour. The result was delicious and very sweet; I served it in small pieces. My shopping list included hemp, chia and flax seeds, goji berries, gluten-free low-sodium tamari, all new to me and all enjoyable. My family didn’t like polenta squares with kale and sun-dried tomatoes, but I’ll try again with less spice. For breakfast they loved smoothies with hemp, fruit and almond milk, and for dinner, quinoa-based Incan Pilaf was a hit.

The Simply Raw Kitchen starts with a rationale for a plant-based diet and with Natasha’s story: from her mother’s wholesome, freshly prepared food at home, through her modelling career and slide into an eating disorder, to her discovery of plant-based eating and return to health. Natasha is small, very lean and healthy looking, though perhaps a little tired. She is taking a breather from giving courses and events while she reorganizes the restaurant, but will soon resume teaching two courses, one about detox/cleansing using lots of greens, the other about the raw food kitchen.

Natasha is also planning to write two new books, a detox recipe book with photographs, and an autobiography recounting her personal journey. For Natasha, this is a way of life. She is committed to teaching others about healthier living. She has created a community around her with her classes and potluck dinners. Calories? She doesn’t believe in counting them. If you eat this way, without dessert every day, you don’t need to worry about calories.

IS IT MORE EXPENSIVE 
TO EAT THIS WAY?

To take full advantage of this book, you need a food processor and a blender or stick mixer. A dehydrator and juicer would be useful but not necessary. Is it more expensive to eat this way? If you cut out meat – a large part of the grocery budget – and replace it with the more expensive organic fruits and vegetables, along with nuts, seeds, berries, it probably comes out even.

IS IT REALLY HEALTHIER?

I expect the answer to that is a definite yes. Based on evidence, many others have said that fruits and vegetables are key to better health. Are these recipes too high in sodium? I’ve been trying to keep to the medically recommended 1,500 mg sodium/day. One full day’s menu from the book came in slightly high at 1,947 mg. When I asked about that, Natasha said she is trying to reach an audience that is used to salt, so it had to be somewhat salty to be flavourful. Of course, the salt amounts in her recipes are always optional.

IS IT A DIFFICULT TRANSITION 
TO SIMPLY RAW?

For some it is, but this book gives ideas of how to put together healthy, tasty meals without going fully raw. If raw, fresh food can taste this good, it’s worth the effort of learning and experimenting. Watch Natasha’s website for details and new offerings: www.simplyraw.ca

Glebe resident Dorothy Phillips pursues healthy eating with persistence, lots of research and experimentation.

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