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Brady Brady and the Great Rink

Mary Shaw discusses the inspiration of her children's book series

by Alison Lukan @AlisonL / BlueJackets.com

Mary Shaw just wanted her hockey-obsessed son, Brady, to read a book or two.

Her daughter already loved to read, after all. But when you're Canadian, and your father is Brad Shaw, former NHL player and now coach, it's easy to see how an obsession with the sport came to dominate young Brady's thoughts.

Brady had put on his first pair of skates around age two and was even "skating" around the kitchen floor in his pajamas when he couldn't be on the ice.

Mary's challenge was how to get her young son to even consider paying attention to a book and not just a stick and puck.

"I thought 'I going to write a hockey book so maybe Brady will start reading about stuff he loves," Mary told BlueJackets.com "So I wrote 'Brady Brady and the Great Rink' and it was going to be just a one-off."

But as surprising as it might be, there were no other children's books quite like Mary's first effort that told the story of young "Brady" building an outdoor rink. Interest in the book soared and soon Mary's publisher was asking her to write more.

Three or four more stories quickly followed.

"I'd go and watch Brady's hockey games," Mary said. "I'd hear somebody yell something in the stands or something would happen during his game, and I'd write it into a book."

The Brady Brady series quickly grew to include not just more books about Brady and his friends, but also stories inspired by Mary's daughters Taylor (The Twirling Torpedo,) and Caroline (The Super Skater,) who is the only girl on Orange High School's hockey team today.

As Brad's hockey career took the family throughout the US, Mary realized she'd built a career that she could do anywhere. It was also one that could expand to include the interests of the town in which the family lived.

During Brad's time as head coach of the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, Mary added a football themed book to the collection. While in St. Louis, she wrote a story to honor they city's passion for baseball.

There are 15 books in the Brady Brady series today, 12 focus on hockey.

Video: Blue Jackets and partners develop Timeout to Read

"It was pretty casual for a while and it started to take off a little bit," Brady said. "When it took off it was among people my age too who were reading the books.

"It's crazy how many times I'll go to a school and visit and you don't realize how big the books are, and how big of an impact they have on kids reading. You can ask them who has read a Brady Brady book before and all the boys are throwing their hands up."

And that's what keeps Mary motivated - inspiring kids to read by connecting with them through a story about their passions. She travels to many schools, sometimes as far as Alaska, to hopefully get more kids interested in books.

And if Mary can't visit a school in person? Well, she has a plan for that too.

Through her site, people can not only buy the books but also play online activities, download coloring sheets or contact Mary with a question or a story about the books' importance in their life.

Mary has gotten plenty of questions from parents and children alike, and recently heard about a parent who built his son an outdoor rink because her son reads that Brady Brady story all the time.

"When I read stuff like that, maybe I am making a difference or impacting somebody's little world," Mary said. "Even here, Brandon Dubinsky's son is a huge Brady Brady fan. I got a little jersey for him and I'm going to introduce the real 'Brady' to him."

As for the real Brady, who now plays forward at the University of Vermont, the books not only got him to read, they've become a special connection to the sport he still loves so much. 

"Now I play with guys who grew up with the books," Brady said. "They look at me and I tell them I'm Brady Brady from the books, and they think it's the coolest thing.

"What my mom has done is so great. This was a hobby that she turned into much larger than that. A lot of credit to her, and I'm very proud of her."

To learn more about the Brady Brady series, visit BradyBrady.com

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