Mary Shaw's hockey adventure led her to kids books about her favourite sport

The author of Brady Brady and the Santa Search has taken inspiration from her life as a parent in writing 17 books in the kids book series

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Mary Shaw didn’t set out in life to become a children’s author, but funny things happen when you’ve got a son obsessed with hockey who you’d like to see read a little more.

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Her eldest daughter Taylore had been a voracious reader, she said. But Brady, her middle kid, was more interested in playing hockey, just like his dad Brad, who played professionally for 16 years and is now an assistant coach with the Vancouver Canucks.

“I couldn’t get Brady to read, he was always in the basement playing mini sticks,” Shaw told Postmedia.

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“I thought, I’m going to write a book for kids like my son who were obsessed with hockey. He wanted to read about kids like himself.”

Fast forward two decades and she’s on to book No. 17: Brady Brady and the Santa Search. It’s published by Scholastic, with whom she signed a three-book deal two years ago. This is the second book.

The latest instalment in Shaw’s Brady Brady series has Brady Brady playing in a hockey game on Christmas Eve, only to remember he forgot to send his letter to Santa.

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He thinks he spots St. Nick in the arena, so he and his teammates set off in search, hoping they can deliver Brady Brady’s letter in time.

“I always wanted to do a Christmas book,” she admitted.

“For 15 years I’ve wanted to do this. I used to go back and forth with Chuck Temple, my illustrator, about it. He didn’t want to, but I would say, ‘There are always going to be six- and seven-year-olds. My editor was the one who had to tell Chuck we were doing this,” she said with a laugh.

Brady Brady and the Santa Search was supposed to be out last Christmas, but the COVID-19 pandemic saw many printers shut down so production was delayed for a year.

“Maybe that’s for the better,” she said. “People can go to stores again.”

The first Brady Brady book — Brady Brady and the Great Rink — was supposed to be a one-off, she said, but then her editor convinced her to try a series.

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Writing just came naturally. When she was younger, she had originally thought she’d become a high school teacher, but then Brad’s hockey life took over, taking the young couple around North America and even to Italy for a season.

Brad became a full-time player for the Hartford Whalers in the 1989-90 season and the couple became parents around the same time.

“In Hartford, we’d had our first child, so I took correspondence classes on writing for children,” she said.

But it wasn’t until a few years later that she first really started thinking about writing a book.

“I had written a book when the kids were younger called Brady Brady Gum Face, but never turned it into anything,” she said.

Children’s author Mary Shaw along with mascots, including one from the Columbus Blue Jackets, her husband Brad’s former team, during a school appearance in Columbus, Ohio.
Children’s author Mary Shaw along with mascots, including one from the Columbus Blue Jackets, her husband Brad’s former team, during a school appearance in Columbus, Ohio. Photo by Submitted /jpg

After she published Brady Brady and the Great Rink, the ideas started to flow. Most of the Brady Brady stories are about hockey, but there have been times where she’s branched out, based on other ideas.

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“When we were living in Cincinnati, where Brad was coaching, I went to a school to talk about my books and I asked the kids if anyone played hockey. One hand shot up in the back and it was my son,” she laughed. “OK, Ohio is a football state. So I wrote a Brady Brady about football.”

Of course her kids are all grown up now — Brady is playing professionally for a Hungary-based team in the Austrian league, and her daughters Taylore and Caroline both played hockey, too — so she has to find new ways to build up ideas.

“It’s harder now that we’re empty nesters, no hockey games, no soccer games, no ideas you’re overhearing,” she said. “In Columbus last year (where Brad used to coach), there were these three little guys across the street. They helped me pick the name for Brady Brady and the Santa Search.”

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