Tundra Telegram: Books that are Top Shelf

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we skate into the topics at the very top of readers’ minds and recommend some recent great books to check out.

In reality, the topic everyone is talking about is the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide. We recommended our list of books for all ages connected to that subject back on May 12, when a leaked draft of this decision (which proved to be very accurate) was made public . . . we feel like it’s certainly a great week to revisit it! (And you can find ways to donate to help ensure safe abortion access in the United States here.)

Also happening this past weekend: the Stanley Cup Finals concluded, the National Hockey League’s championship series to determine the best team in professional ice hockey in North America. The Colorado Avalanche cross-checked their way to victory, four games to two, over last year’s winners the Tampa Bay Lightning.  So, we’re strapping on some blades and hitting this ice, with books about ice hockey or – more generally – skating!


Not many better ways to celebrate the Stanley Cup than by books connected to a hockey player who held that trophy more than one time. Great, and its followup, Great Too, are picture books written by Glen Gretzky (brother to Wayne), and Lauri Holomis, and illustrated by hockey fan (and celebrated children’s author-illustrator) Kevin Sylvester. Both books celebrate teamwork and building on the ice, featuring depictions of a young Wayne Gretzky and Coach Wally (Wayne’s late beloved dad, Walter Gretzky). We follow Taylor, who plays hockey with The Great One as a kid, and learn the important lessons that Coach Wally imparts. Both books feature a foreword from four-time Stanley Cup winner Wayne Gretzky himself!

Bobby Orr only won a mere two Stanley Cups (which is far more than I ever will!), but he also wrote a great picture book based on his own childhood called Bobby Orr and the Hand-Me-Down Skates, co-authored by Kara Kootstra and illustrated by Jennifer Phelan. Young readers will learn that even future hockey legends start with hand-me-downs, as young Bobby, at first disappointed, grows to love the used blades he receives for a birthday.

And while Zachary Hyman hasn’t made it to the Stanley Cup championships (yet – he’s still young!), he’s certainly an NHL star with a few playoff appearances. He’s also an accomplished children’s author to boot, with his most hockey-themed book being Hockey Hero, illustrated by Zachary Pullen. In it, an awkward young player who finds his hockey chutzpah in the midst of a Pee Wee tournament.

Of course, you can’t talk about hockey picture books – or even Canadian picture books – and leave out Roch Carrier and Sheldon Cohen’s classic The Hockey Sweater. The quintessential hockey book is also the quintessential book about the English-French Canada divide. If you’re unfamiliar with this story of a boy in small-town Quebec who gets a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater instead of one from his beloved Montreal Canadiens, the 30th anniversary edition is readily available for your reading!

From the “the Wayne Gretzky of hockey writing” Roy MacGregor and Geneviève Després comes The Highest Number in the World, in which 9-year-old Gabe (Gabriella) Murray is disappointed to not get the jersey number 22 (her hero Hayley Wickenheiser’s number). But her grandmother informs her of the storied history of Number 9 in hockey (including its connection to another author on our list, Bobby Orr).

And the Governor General’s Award-winning When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge and Matt James proves you don’t need a league or a rink or a jersey to enjoy hockey. All the kids need in this lyrical and atmospheric story is a frozen lake and a full moon.

And finally, we’ll recommend a few picture books about non-humans on the hockey rink. Like Glory on Ice by Maureen Fergus and Mark Fearing, in which a centuries-old vampire (Vlad) brings his crushing-and-destroying skills to the ice in this hilarious story about the newest (and oldest) member of a local peewee hockey team.

Haven’t been interested in vampires since Twilight? Well, how about a polar bear playing hockey? Like Lorna Schultz Nicholson and Kelly Findley’s Puckster books, in which a hockey mascot experiences the dizzying highs and crushing lows of junior hockey. There are eight books in the series, but perhaps the most relevant one to last weekend’s events is Puckster’s First Hockey Tournament.

And what about the machines on the ice? Clean Sweep: Frank Zamboni’s Ice Machine by Monica Kulling and Renné Benoit tells the story of how one skating rink owner, with the help of his brother and cousin invented the now-famous (and ubiquitous) ice-resurfacing machine.


Need a crash-course in this whole NHL championship thing? What Is the Stanley Cup? by Gail Herman and Gregory Copeland is here to help! Young readers can learn about the oldest sports trophy in the world, from the formation of the leagues and the crowning of the first championship-winning team, to the Rangers’ Stanley Cup curse and more.

Though the title of Jay Versus the Saxophone of Doom by sometime-Bobby-Orr-collaborator Kara Kootstra (and illustrated by Kim Smith) may sound more about music than slapshots, we assure you Jay is all about hockey and is very good at it. If only playing woodwinds was as easy as handling a hockey stick!

Unlike Jay, Miles Lewis is not into hockey – he’s more into science and sports that don’t involve skates. But in Miles Lewis: King of the Ice by Kelly Starling Lyons and illustrated by Wayne Spencer, Miles may have to learn how to ice skate when is teacher announces a class field trip to a rink to learn about physics – and that’s just the beginning of his troubles!

The fifth installment of kids’ sports writer extraordinaire Mike Lupica’s Zach and Zoe Mysteries is The Hockey Rink Hunt, and – as you may have guessed – it follows the eight-year-old twins as they try to find the missing lucky necklace of the Boston Bruins’ star player. It’s a perfect book if you love Stieg Larsson as much you do Steve Stamkos.

And there are literally dozens of books in Roy MacGregor’s Screech Owls series, which read like a team full of Hardy Boys and Nancy Drews who know how to deke. But the one to read to celebrate the Stanley Cup is Screech Owls: The Ghost of the Stanley Cup. The book follows our favourite junior hockey team as they travel to Ottawa to play in the Little Stanley Cup peewee tournament, and find it pestered by a phantom! Or check out Screech Owls: The Night They Stole the Stanley Cup, in which the team uncovers a plot to lift the trophy from the Hockey Hall of Fame!


Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill features two girls named Sloane Jacobs: one a high-anxiety figure skater, the other an aggressive hockey player. When they meet on their way to skating camps in Montreal, they decide to switch places and escape their lives for a summer – with flirty results!

So, it’s not hockey, but it’s YA on ice! On Top of Glass by Karina Manta is an insightful memoir from a figure skating champion about her life as a bisexual professional athlete. A story about ice athleticism that spotlights queerness, as well as struggles with body image, panic attacks, and first crushes – that’s a hat trick most people would rather avoid!

Finding Her Edge by Jennifer Iacopelli is also more about figure skating – we don’t have too many YA novels about hockey – but we think you’ll have few complaints about this sweeping romance that follows elite ice dancer Adriana Russo as she finds herself drawn into an (ice) love triangle with dance partners old and new. If you love it, make sure to check out our Q&A with the author from earlier this year!

Finding Her Edge: A Q&A with Jennifer Iacopelli

When we heard Jennifer Iacopelli’s  latest book, Finding Her Edge, was a retelling of one of our fave Jane Austen novels, we had to know more. Read on for our Q&A with Jennifer!

Q&A with Jennifer Iacopelli

Tell us a bit about Finding Her Edge! What inspired you?

Finding Her Edge is a story about a young ice dancer, Adriana Russo, who comes from a legendary figure skating family. I drew my inspiration from two places. First, during the 2018 Olympics when all the media attention was on Virtue and Moir, the Canadian ice dancers and everyone insisted that they were together romantically, even when they kept denying it (and it turns out they weren’t!). I wanted to explore the potential toxicity of something like that happening, especially to younger skaters who maybe don’t quite have the same control over their careers as those two did!

Second, my favorite book is Jane Austen’s Persuasion and I’ve always wanted to do a retelling and there was something about the hierarchy of figure skating and that world that really lent itself to the foundations of that story and the strict hierarchy of Regency England!

Who is your favorite ice dancer/figure skater?

My all time favorite figure skater is Michelle Kwan. I regularly go back to watch her programs from years past. She’s just a few years older than me, so I feel like she’s inspired me for decades now! More recently, I’ve become such a fan of Nathan Chen. His brilliant skates in Beijing notwithstanding, his story is amazing and his comeback after all that pressure was put on him in 2018 to win, was seriously mind blowing!

Michelle Kwan in action.

You follow Persuasion quite closely, did you ever feel tempted to change or update some of the story beats?

I didn’t! It all seemed to fit really well and Persuasion isn’t nearly as popular as Austen’s other novels, so I felt like it made sense to stick with the plot as much as possible, despite it being pretty disguised by the ice dance of it all. If I’d been working on a Pride and Prejudice or Emma retelling, I probably would have messed with the story beats quite a bit more.

Break the Fall is about a gymnast, Finding Her Edge is about an ice dancer – what sport will you write about next?

We’ll see! For my next full length novel, I have a few ideas, but right now it looks like I might be headed to the world of ballet. And I just finished working on a short story for my upcoming anthology co-edited with Dahlia Adler about fastpitch softball!

Related: are you athletic? What’s your favorite sport?

I am decently athletic, mostly because I have good hand-eye coordination. I played sports in high school, but nothing at a super high level. My favorite sport of all time is baseball and I miss it so much right now it hurts!

If you could write a modern version of any other classic novel, what would it be? What genre would you rewrite it as?

I’ve always wanted to write an updated version of  William Thackeray’s Vanity Fair because it’s so juicy and delicious. Becky Sharpe is such a delightfully awful main character and I think it would play very, very well with a contemporary audience, but I also think it would have to be an adult novel to hit the right tone.

A scene from the 2007 adaptation of Persuasion.

What’s your number one piece of writing advice (either that you give people or that you’ve received)?

Always and forever, write the thing that you want to read. It will keep you motivated and you’re guaranteed to write something that at least one person in the world wants on their bookshelf (and if there’s one, there are many, many more!)

What are you working on next?

Right now I’m playing around with a few ideas. The first, that ballet story I mentioned earlier and I’ve got this super fun idea for a contemporary YA about a rock band, but that’s very much just a nugget of an idea that needs time to marinate.

Pandemic question: What’s the one thing you just can’t live without these days?

Right now, I’d be absolutely lost without my sandwich press. I bought a super cheap one and it makes the most perfect grilled cheese, brown and crispy on the outside and very melty on the inside!

Thanks for joining us, Jennifer! Finding Her Edge is available now, make sure you pick it up from your favorite bookstore!

Finding Her Edge
By Jennifer Iacopelli
304 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593350362 | Razorbill
Adriana Russo is figure skating royalty. With gold-medalist parents, and her older sister headed to the Olympics, all she wants is to live up to the family name and stand atop the ice dance podium at the Junior World Championships. But fame doesn’t always mean fortune, and their legendary skating rink is struggling under the weight of her dad’s lavish lifestyle. The only thing keeping it afloat is a deal to host the rest of the Junior Worlds team before they leave for France. That means training on the same ice as her first crush, Freddie, the partner she left when her growth spurt outpaced his. For the past two years, he’s barely acknowledged her existence, and she can’t even blame him for it. When the family’s finances take another unexpected hit, losing the rink seems inevitable until her partner, Brayden, suggests they let the world believe what many have suspected: that their intense chemistry isn’t contained to the ice. Fans and sponsors alike take the bait, but keeping up the charade is harder than she ever imagined. And training alongside Freddie makes it worse, especially when pretending with Brayden starts to feel very real. As the biggest competition of her life draws closer and her family’s legacy hangs in the balance, Adriana is caught between her past and present, between the golden future she’s worked so hard for, and the one she gave up long ago.

Also by Jennifer Iacopelli:

Break the Fall
By Jennifer Iacopelli
336 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780593114193 | Razorbill
Audrey Lee is going to the Olympics. A year ago, she could barely do a push up as she recovered from a spine surgery, one that could have paralyzed her. And now? She’s made the United States gymnastics team with her best friend, Emma, just like they both dreamed about since they were kids. She’s on top of the world. The pressure for perfection is higher than ever when horrifying news rips the team apart. Audrey is desperate to advocate for her teammate who has been hurt by the one person they trusted most – but not all the gymnasts are as supportive. With the team on the verge of collapse, the one bright spot in training is Leo, her new coach’s ridiculously cute son. And while Audrey probably (okay, definitely) shouldn’t date him until after the games, would it really be the end of the world? Balancing the tenuous relationship between her teammates with unparalleled expectations, Audrey doesn’t need any more distractions. No matter what it takes, she’s not going to let anyone bring them down. But with painful revelations, incredible odds, and the very real possibility of falling at every turn, will Audrey’s determination be enough?

Jennifer Iacopelli: website | twitter | instagram