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Q+A with author Lorna Schultz Nicholson

October 4th, 2011 by Carrie Gleason

Lorna Schultz Nicholson

Lorna Schultz Nicholson is the author of two non-fiction books in the Lorimer Recordbooks series: Pink Power and Winning Gold, both of which tell amazing stories of Canada's National Women's Hockey Teams. She has also written many other fiction and non-fiction titles.

We checked in with Lorna to talk about how the profile of women hockey players has changed since the 1990s and what this means for tomorrow's stars of the game.


pink power coverwinning gold cover

Q: Where does your interest in hockey, and specifically women’s hockey, come from?

A: Hockey was one of my favourite sports to play when I was young. I started playing in a three-team league and we wore figure skates and stuffed shin pads under our jeans. Our only other equipment was gloves, a helmet, and a stick.

After that first year, we got a sponsor who bought four sets of jerseys and socks and an arena gave us the 9:00 – 11:00 ice time on Friday nights. I was thrilled. I loved playing hockey.

From there a travelling team was created and, yes, I made that team. We were called the Jaycee Jets. I also played hockey when I was in my thirties in Russell, Ontario and again in Calgary just a few years back. So hockey is in my blood.

I guess it has to be because I married someone who devotes his life to the sport. I have been extremely grateful that I can attend the events I write about: 1990 Women’s World Championships; 2002 Olympic Games. And I am also grateful that every female athlete I talked to was more than willing to share their stories with me. They answer my questions and want to talk about the sport they love because they are passionate about hockey.


Q: You travelled with Team Canada to the first Women's World Hockey Championships in 1990, the subject of your book Pink Power. You were also there when the Canadian Women's Team won at the 2002 Olympic Games, the subject of Winning Gold. In what way do you think the general public's awareness of women's hockey had changed in the years between those two tournaments?

A: Women’s hockey has grown a great deal since the first Women’s World Hockey Championship — that tournament was a huge eye opener for so many people.  They realized that women’s hockey was really exciting to watch and a good game for young girls to play.

I think the biggest change has been to the growth in the sport in sheer numbers of girls playing which, in turn, has led to stiffer competition to make our National Team. The level of play has escalated and the women are now better hockey players. They shoot harder, skate better, and are bigger and stronger and that is because they have more opportunities with more ice time, better coaching, and more competition.

We have players that everyone knows, like Hayley Wickenheiser, who was good enough to play in a men’s league in Finland. We also have women now graduating from the game and moving on to roles in hockey that have been predominately been occupied by men. An example of this is Cassie Campbell. She can be seen on Hockey Night in Canada because of her play on our National Team.

All in all the sport has grown in leaps and bounds since 1990.     


Q: Now that we have well-known women hockey heroes, like the two you mentioned — Cassie Campbell and Hayley Wickenheiser — and more girls interested in playing youth hockey, what changes or improvements do you think this will bring about for girls and their future in hockey?

A: The growth in the sport has definitely given the sport more money which, of course, leads to more ice and better coaching and better equipment. There are more leagues, more tournaments and just an overall better structure for the girls to play under. Those women who are on Canada’s National Team are also garnering more sponsorships, as shown by Cassie Campbell and McDonalds and other athletes getting their faces on cereal boxes.

Now many of our National Team members are also making money as motivational speakers. Tessa Bonhomme has recently been added to the TV show Battle of the Blades. The increased awareness for the sport is helping women have a lifelong a career in hockey.


Q: What do you think will be next for women's hockey? Will we see them in the NHL?

A: We already have! Manon Rheaume (a goalie who played on Canada’s National Team) did play an exhibition game in the NHL. However, it is unlikely that we will see many women play in the NHL in the future. Girls who want a career in hockey should concentrate on playing for Canada’s National Team as that can lead them to other opportunities in the sport, such as broadcasting or speaking or even coaching. 

Perhaps, one day there will be a women’s league in North America that is equivalent to the NHL. Right now as well, the focus needs to be on other countries developing better players to they are able to play with the Canadians and the US women. We need to keep women’s hockey in the Olympics and that should be a focus for women’s hockey. 

Spotlight on author Vallery Hyduk

October 4th, 2011 by Carrie Gleason

Writing a book about a teenage swimmer came naturally for first-time author Vallery Hyduk.

Vallery Hyduk image

Vallery Hyduk knows a thing or two about swimming. For twelve years Vallery swam competitively, practicing some 30 hours a week year-round — that’s pushing twenty thousand hours of training in her lifetime! She spent nine of the twelve years competing at the national level and always ranking in the top 10 in the country. At the age of 16, Vallery narrowly missed making the 1988 Canadian Olympic Team. Her performance earned her a 16th place world ranking. 

Upon graduating high school, Vallery was considered the ‘number two most sought after breaststroke recruit’ by American universities. She accepted an athletic scholarship offered at the University of Michigan. Their varsity team was Big Ten Champions for the whole four years of Vallery’s tenure. Scoring well both athletically and academically in college, Vallery earned the title of All-American – though she actually is Canadian.

Today, Vallery no longer swims, but she has brought some of her experience training at the top level of her sport to her first novel, Swim to Win. Like Vallery, the book's main character, Lasha, has the skill to be one of the best swimmers in the country. Vallery draws from her firsthand knowledge of the dedication, hard work, and sacrifice it takes to be the best to realistically portray her character's struggles.

Today, Vallery is co-owner of a Canadian television production company. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two young children.

Immodest and Sensational

October 4th, 2011 by Carrie Gleason

Women's Sports is no new thing.

immodest & sensational

For teen readers, it may come as a surprise that Canadian women have been active and involved in sports for the past 150 years. And it may come as no surprise that there has been pushback from authorities and institutions all along the way.

The story of women in sports in Canada is told in a readable, highly-illustrated volume by sports historian Ann Hall of Edmonton. Her recent book Immodest & Sensational: 150 Years of Canadian Women in Sport is a look back at some of the most inspiring stories of Canada's women athletes — from the earliest advocates to today's champions.

As Hall tells it, from the beginning, social obstacles have made the playing field uneven for women. The resistance has used everything from arguments about unladylike dress and deportment and the dangers of exercise for future mothers, to barriers to sports facilities and overt harassment. Yet schoolgirls, society women and working class women have relished sport and fought for their right to play.

Even though city and provincial sports halls of fame have honoured their accomplishments, their achievements still aren't very well known.

With 150+ illustrations, large format pages, and lots of colour, this book will appeal to a wide range of readers.

Canadian women take on the world – 80 years ago!

October 4th, 2011 by Carrie Gleason

Young readers may be surprised that women athletes in Canada have been excelling for more than a century. And they were doing it when most people thought girls and women shouldn’t be playing sports!

Forever champions coverThe story of the Edmonton Grads girls' basketball team began with a coin toss in a high school gym. The teacher who lost the toss would have to teach the girls' physical education class.

Luckily, the losing teacher decided to show the girls how to play basketball, and the team would go on to become a celebrated women's team that won both Canadian and international titles. By the time the team (which became a women's team after they left high school) disbanded in 1940, they had an amazing 502 win-20 loss record. Not bad for a team that started out as a group of high school girls no one wanted to teach!

The story of the Grads is told by sports author Richard Brignall in his recently-published book Forever Champions: The enduring legacy of the record-setting Edmonton Grads.

Queens of the IceThe Preston Rivulettes hockey team also had a chance beginning. In 1930 in Preston (now Cambridge, Ontario) a man in a local park overheard a girls' softball team deciding to play hockey when the weather turned cold. The man bet the girls that they couldn't form a team. The girls took up the challenge, and one of the most successful hockey team in Canadian history was born.

The Rivulettes struggled to find enough money for their team to play and, despite the criticism the girls received for playing a violent, unladylike sport, they persevered and  eventually became so good that other teams refused to play them! Queens of the Ice, a new book by University of Lethbridge sports historian Carly Adams, is the first book to tell the story of these early women sports heroes.

Recordbooks are Canadian sports history books. These books have a low reading level so that struggling readers ages 12 and up and ESL students can enjoy them. Content is suitable for kids reading at level. Click here for a full list of Recordbooks:

Sports fiction for girls

October 4th, 2011 by Carrie Gleason

Fiction reflects life – and that goes for girl's sports fiction too.  

Many of the issues that female athletes have faced in the past continue to be problems. Sports fiction plays a role in reflecting the issues real-life girls encounter in a way that tween girls can relate to.

Just run cover

For many young female athletes, balancing sports with changing interests and the pressures of growing up can be a lot to deal with. Toronto children's book author Deb Loughead understands this and in her new novel, a 13-year-old relay runner must learn not to let everything that is going on around her influence her team's performance. The girls on the team are distracted by boys, sibling rivalry, and pressures at home. Only when the girls solve their problems and learn to leave them off the track, do they perform well again as a team.

Delaying the Game cover

Often girls who like sports face external issues, such as joining a new team or making the move to an all-girls team after playing co-ed sports. This is the case for the main character in Lorna Schultz Nicholson’s novel Delaying the Game which tells the story of a girl hockey player who has to switch from a boys' to an all-girl's team, where she feels her teammates aren't concentrating enough on the game. 

Lorimer’s list includes 20+ recent girls' sports books – with issues that range from joining newteams to conflicting interests, bullying and rivalry, gender expectations and disabilities.


Hat Trick coverDelaying the Game coverhome ice cover


sidelined coversoccer star coverfoul play coversoccer showdowntrapped cover

Play OnOff the WallOut of Sight


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Just run cover


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Grade 3 readers bring book to life: Q+A with author Robert Rayner

October 27th, 2011 by Carrie Gleason

School visits by authors usually involve authors reading their books and talking about them with the kids. New Brunswick author Robert Rayner does school visits all the time, and uses the feedback in his writing. But recently his audience has taken the initiative, and turned his school visits into a completely different experience — bringing his characters to life!

libby on strike coverlibby's got the beat

Q: In June of 2010, Blacks Harbour School in New Brunswick held "Libby Day," based around a recurring character in two of your novels. Where did the idea for Libby Day come from?

A: I got the idea for Libby Day while I was sitting in with the grade three students at Blacks Harbour School. I wanted to orientate myself to that age group — how they dressed, spoke, interacted with one another and with teachers, etc. — because it was younger than I usually wrote for. At the time I was drafting Libby’s Got the Beat, as a follow up to Libby on Strike.  


Q: How did you get the students at Blacks Harbour interested in Libby and, ultimately, interested in reading the books?

A: My idea was to give the students a few ‘sneak previews’ of Libby’s Got the Beat while it was still in manuscript form, and for them to be able to order copies in advance of publication, so they’d receive them before it was in stores — and be "first in the world!" to see it. Then the book, which is dedicated to Blacks Harbour School students and staff, would be "launched" on a special day — Libby Day — which parents and guests, as well as teachers and students, would attend.


Q: So Libby Day was essentially a book launch for Libby's Got the Beat, held at a public school?

A: It started out that way, but the teachers sort of took over the whole project, which was just great, and produced their own ideas, so that Libby Day, when it at last arrived, included Libby songs (the first called "Hey Libby"), Libby plays derived from episodes in the story, pictures, posters and collages, book covers (which students could compared with the real cover), dioramas and trioramas, clay models of the characters.

The aim of Libby Day was to get the students excited about books and reading – and I really feel it worked. A year later we did a similar project at Milltown Elementary School with the seventh Brunswick Valley story, Total Offence,culminating in "Toby Day."  

Young writers know how to reach young readers

October 27th, 2011 by Carrie Gleason

When a writer can make a direct connection to the world of a teen who doesn't usually read books, there's a good chance that kid will give the writer — and his (or her) book — a try. That direct connection is often easier for young writers who are only a few years away from their readers in age. At Lorimer we are always looking for new young writers of teen novels. This fall, we are publishing three — and each of them can make connections with your reluctant and struggling readers.

AyaPretty Bones cover

Aya Tsintziras was in her teens when she started writing her just-published novel Pretty Bones. The inspiration for her story came from a tragic event that happened at her Toronto high school — a student had died from what the school was calling "a mysterious illness." The mysterious illness was in fact complications due to an eating disorder.

This prompted Aya to write a play, which won an honourable mention in the Tarragon Theatre's Under 20 Playwright Competition, and eventually led to this novel. Now, just 21, Aya is well on her way to a promising writing career.

Aya blogs at about her experiences as a young published writer.

Kim FirmstonSchizo cover

Kim Firmston's new first novel Schizo is based on one of the many street kids she befriended when she moved to Calgary on her own at age 18. Kim's novel tells the story of a teenage boy who takes care of his little brother because their mom is schizophrenic.

Today, Kim holds creative writing workshops for children and teens and runs a children's writing club in Calgary. With that background, she has lots of experience in finding ways to encourage kids to read — and to write. To find out more visit her online at or


Sports fan first, author second

October 27th, 2011 by Carrie Gleason

Know kids who love sports, but books . . . not so much?

Forever champions coverFearless cover

Richard Brignall is a sports fan first, and it is this love of sports allows him make an easy connection to kids who like sports more than books. Based in Kenora, Ontario, Rick travels around northern Ontario, to Winnipeg, and even as far as Edmonton introducing kids and teens to  Canadian sports history legends. Some they know of already, some they don't. By starting with sports, he finds ways of making connections that encourage reluctant readers to try his books.

Rick's latest book, coming this fall, focuses on what is probably the biggest Canadian sports story of all time — the cold war hockey series fought out in 1972 between Canada and Russia. It's coming up to the 40th anniversary of this famous series, and this new book is geared to young readers who are interested in learning more about the background to this legendary tournament.

Rick's other Recordbooks cover a broad range of topics. They run from the all-star Edmonton Grads, a renegade women' basketball team in the 1920s-30s; to tough-guy boxer George Chuvalo, who went head-to-head with the biggest boxing stars of the '60s and '70s — including Muhammad Ali and George Foreman — but was never once knocked out! 

china clipper cover

But there's always a bigger story behind the topics Rick chooses. Kids attracted to a book about  Major Leaguer Fergie Jenkins in Big League Dreams, will also be learning about how this great ballplayer is descended from black slaves who fled to Canada via the Underground Railroad and the significance of becoming the first African Canadian to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In the book China Clipper, Rick shares with readers the story of how a Chinese Canadian kid discovered that he had a talent for football, and became the first Chinese Canadian to play in the CFL. Later, Edmonton Eskimo player Normie Kwong became Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta.

big train coversmall town glory coverSummit Series '72

Altogether Rick has published five narrative sports biographies in the Lorimer Recordbooks series. Richard Brignall's book Big Train, about Lionel Conacher — Canada's Greatest Male Athlete of the Half-Century (1950) — is currently nominated for the Red Cedar Information Award.

richard brignall

For more on Rick, check out his website at

Reach your girl reluctant readers...with humour!

October 27th, 2011 by Carrie Gleason

26 tips coverThough reluctant readers are often boys, there are also many girls who do little or no reading. Many young girls hide that they aren't readers from their friends, teachers, and family. In this situation, there's a definite need for accessible and appealing books for these resistant readers too.

One approach — using homour — works well with boys, and it can also be the perfect way to engage girls.  Ottawa-area author Catherine Austen uses humour as a key element in her new book 26 Tips for Surviving Grade 6, a book that deals with common worries that tween girls can relate to, like jealousy, crushes, friendships, and family. 

Readers can start at the beginning and read the book consecutively to enjoy the whole story or they can simply dip at the start of any of the book's 26 tips to tickle their funny bone.

26 tips spread

Catherine Austen is available for school and library visits in the Ottawa-Gatineau area. To talk to Catherine about a school visit, contact the author directly through her website at


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