It’s Hockey Time, Franklin! is yet another kids picture book with a story that borrows bits from strip continuities but builds its own stories. In this tale, Peppermint Patty is trying to use the pond to practice her figure skating when a gang of bullies tries to take over the space so that they can play hockey. Franklin ends up stepping in, and challenges them to a game, with the winner getting to use the pond… no, not even that, if the bullies win, they get to use the pond, if they lose, they get half the pond. That shows a bit of the aggressively “let’s all be nice” attitude that is put into this piece. The game gets played, and the other team gives up after Franklin scores one goal… which seems like a bit quick to give up, until you see some of their team scattered across the ice, showing pain. That comes across as another bit of compromise – you can have the characters get treated rough so long as you don’t show anyone actually treating each other rough. These are the sorts of compromises that one makes when taking a property that wasn’t meant particularly for kids and attempting to do specifically kid-targeted material with it.
What makes me happy, though, is to see Franklin take a lead role for this. Even in the strips he was in, he was more often secondary, being a sounding board for Peppermint Patty or Charlie Brown, than to be the lead in the tale. It’s good to see him in the big leagues, as it were. (And speaking of the big leagues: while yes, there is text from some daily strips used in this, such as Lucy talking about how she loves “hockey ball,” there is no quoting of the strip where Peppermint Patty points out the lack of black players in the NHL.) Franklin is presented as confident. He’s also not the only person of color in the book, as one of the bullies is colored darker than his teammates, although not as dark as Franklin.