Lucas VanderVelde has been obsessed about Canada’s national sport since he could walk.
Shy, with sparkling blue eyes and a thick swath of blonde hair, the now four-year-old boy often suits himself in a Vancouver Canucks jersey one day and in an Ottawa Senators’ sweater another (an ode to his mom’s Vernon roots, as well as his dad’s hometown of Renfrew in the Ottawa Valley).
The young Lucas also wields a pretty strong slap shot for a boy whose teeth are still coming in.
So when Lucas’ mom, Lisa VanderVelde, The Morning Star’s staff photographer, went searching for a book on hockey for her then two-year-old son, she came up empty handed.
It turns out there are few books, if any, about hockey for preschoolers.
VanderVelde (née Marshall) decided to do something about it. She created a character based on a young moose who wants to play hockey, but is told he can’t because he is a moose.
“A lot of books out there on hockey are for older kids. Lots of them are wordy. I wanted a good story that captured Canada’s passion for hockey that a young child could relate to,” said VanderVelde about her just published children’s book entitled, Marshall Plays Hockey.
Illustrated by VanderVelde’s sister, Erin Black, who lives in Dunedin, New Zealand, the book follows Marshall’s passion to play the game despite the nay saying from his friends, Betty the Beaver, Danny the White-Tailed Deer, Candice the Canadian Goose, and Bandit the Black Bear.
“We wanted to use all Canadian animals,” said VanderVelde, who worked on the concept, while Black, a fine arts graduate of the Alberta College of Art and Design, worked on the colourful drawings using oil pastel on construction paper.
“When Erin was visiting last fall we went through and talked about our ideas. She just knew what I was trying to say and got an essence for the book. I really think she captured the personalities so well in the book.”
Once done, VanderVelde and Black went the traditional route and sent the book out to publishing companies and literary agents.
“We were one in a million doing the same thing and we had no success, so we decided to use our own resources with help from our friends,” said VanderVelde.
Help also arrived from fellow Morning Star staff.
Life editor Katherine Mortimer helped with the editing.
Creative consultant Sean McConkey designed the book, and former Morning Star reporter Natalie Appleton, who now teaches English and writing at Okanagan College, wrote the summary at the back of the book.
Both VanderVelde and Black invested their own money to then have the book printed at Wayside Press.
Now with its first run off the press, Marshall Plays Hockey is already proving popular amongst those who have heard about it through word of mouth and on Facebook.
And VanderVelde is about to get an even bigger audience when she launches the book at the Vernon Vipers $5 Friday home game at Wesbild Centre, Nov. 2, sponsored by Costco.
VanderVelde and her entourage will be selling copies of the book in the concourse at the Wesbild Centre, and will also give away a couple of copies at the game.
Any parents with young hockey players/fans out there interested in the book can also contact VanderVelde by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.