I have been a big fan of Jolly Roger Bradfield since reading Pickle-Chiffon Pie in 2017. That book and its sequel, The Pickle-Chiffon Pie Olympics (a Purple House Press exclusive), made me laugh myself silly. First, because of how funny they were and then, all over again, because of how hard my babies were laughing. His other adorable book, Giants Come In Different sizes, is equally funny with its letter from the FDA confirming the presence of hamburger-growing bushes. Already loving Bradfield’s whimsical, funny, and highly imaginative style, I knew that The Flying Hockey Stick was going to be funny and sweet, and I was not wrong.
“As a child, I often thought of how wonderful it would be to just spread my arms and float into the sky. Perhaps most children have that fantasy . . . this was the genesis of The Flying Hockey Stick – the story about a boy who not only flew over the neighbor’s yard but high into the sky, across the country, and even to distant lands . . . If one is to write for children, perhaps one must think like a child. Easy for me – I never grew up.” – Jolly Roger Bradfield from the Purple House Press dust jacket
This fanciful story opens with a great first paragraph: “Barnaby Jones was a boy who had wanted something for years and years. He wanted, more than anything, to be able to fly like a bird.” Simple. Direct. Boyish. And it contains the promise of an adventure. What child wouldn’t be hooked by that right away? What adult reading aloud isn’t smirking immediately?
The next several pages chronicle the many failed attempts of Barnaby to turn ordinary things into gliders, helicopters, etc. But, undaunted, he pushes forward. And then, he has it! Simple is best, you know. A hockey stick to ride on, a fan for propulsion, an umbrella for lift, and an extension cord for power. But, that extension cord can only go so far. So Barnaby goes throughout the neighborhood collecting everyone’s extension cords so he can fly around the world.
While Barnaby gets himself set up for take-off, his mother brings him a bag of peanut butter sandwiches and a pickle, to keep him fed on his journey. And with that, off he goes. Several cities away, he spies a building on fire and assists the firemen by rescuing an old lady up where the ladders won’t reach.
“The poor woman had no choice for the flames were getting close. Putting on her Sunday hat, she climbed onto the hockey stick behind Barnaby Jones and they zoomed away.”
Surprised but impressed, the poor woman decides to join Barnaby on the flight around the world. As they fly over the open sea, they rescue a shipwrecked sea captain. And, on a deserted jungle island, they rescue a hunter who is being chased by hungry lions. At this point, the extension cords have reached their limit and everyone is jolted off of the hockey stick. Trading the sandwiches for their lives, they hop back on and fly home, leaving the lions to enjoy the lunch.
I continue to be amazed by Roger Bradfield’s creativity and passion for life. His drawings make me so happy! And his characters are so alive and easy to love. He was a prolific writer and illustrator. Purple House Press has five of his books reprinted beautifully and they have the only printing of The Pickle-Chiffon Pie Olympics, as that book was created because of a conversation that Jill Morgan and Bradfield had. Jill tells us that awesome story and so many others about Roger Bradfield in an upcoming podcast! Stay tuned!
If you are a Biblioguides member, check out the Roger Bradfield author page where they have all of his Purple House Press books linked in their database.