Sylvia Olsen


Sylvia Olsen is a writer and public speaker living on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. She is the author of several picture books, a number of first readers and novels for young adults and one non fiction, so far. Most of all she is a mother and grandmother and aunty to dozens of nieces and nephews.

Sylvia has spent most of her life living in Tsartlip First Nation, where her children and grandchildren now live. Because Sylvia is non native and her children are of mixed heritage most of her stories are about the place, the time,the experience of where different sorts of people come together. That's one of the things that interests her the most. It's one of the things she knows the most about, and like many authors, Sylvia writes about what she knows.

Her newest books are: a historical fiction set in the Gulf Islands called Counting on Hope (Sono Nis, Fall 2009) and A Different Game (Orca Books, Spring 2010). She is currently working on an adult non fiction and dreaming up a new story for a Young Adult novel (making it up is her favourite part of the writing process).

Writing is Sylvia's most important hobby. She also loves to draw, sew, knit and design clothing. Her "real" job is in housing. Her career, her dedication and her passion are to make sure everyone has a healthy place to live.
Knitting Stories: Personal Essays and Nine Coast Salish-inspired Knitting Patterns
Author: Sylvia Olsen
Traditional Territory: Coast Salish
  • Ask Sylvia Olsen—author, knitter and expert on the
    world-famous Cowichan sweaters—whether there’s any
    more to be said about knitting, and her answer is a
    resounding “Yes! Of course, yes. Knitting stories are as
    varied as the things we knit and, like all good stories, they
    tell us about ourselves and what it means to be a human
    being. We will never grow tired of stories like that.”

    In Knitting Stories, Sylvia’s storytelling talents are in
    full evidence as she shares her musings and insights about
    knitting, design, community, family and the creation of
    narratives from both wool and words. Full of delightful
    personal anecdotes, this collection of essays also reflects
    on the author’s knowledge of, and experience with,
    creating and marketing traditional Cowichan sweaters.
    She also describes her more recent forays into Salish
    fusion designs.

    Knitters will love the gorgeous examples of Olsen’s
    work, stunningly photographed by Joshua Lawrence Studio.

    Seven original patterns are included for items including a
    snuggly infinity scarf, bolero, sweater, skirt, toque, poncho and fingerless gloves. Readers can learn how Margaret Atwood came
    to own a pair of Sylvia’s gloves in the essay titled Am I
    Knitting Stories or Writing Sweaters? and then pick up
    needles and wool to make a pair by following the instructions
    provided.

    These essays and knitting patterns are, by turn, inspiring,
    thought-provoking and entertaining. Like the knitted
    items themselves, the stories collected here are warm and
    reassuring—products of a generous spirit that are timeless,
    beautiful and perfect for sharing.

$28.95

In Re-Print
Working With Wool
Author: Sylvia Olsen
Format: Hardcover
  • Cowichan sweaters are a lot like the Coast Salish women who knit them: hardy, practical, and enduringly beautiful. An artistic fusion of indigenous and European handwork, the Cowichan sweater became a Canadian icon. Award-winning author, knitter, and Cowichan-sweater expert Sylvia Olsen recounts one of Vancouver Island’s most compelling stories in Working With Wool, a stunning, fully illustrated account of innovation, hard work and cultural strength.

$38.95

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Life Cycle of a Lie
Author: Sylvia Olsen
Format: Paperback
  • Fifteen-year-old Vikki loves her boyfriend, Linc. But when Jona, an attractive teenaged boy, moves to town, things get complicated. Jona is beautiful. Sensitive. Funny. At first, Vikki finds it thrilling to spend time with two delicious boys. But when Linc and Jona seem to be enjoying each other’s company just a little too much, Vikki struggles to keep her feelings of jealousy in check. When Jona is implicated in a theft, Vikki doesn’t exactly jump to his rescue, though she could sort things out by sharing what she knows. Instead, lies of omission are covered up by lies of a more insidious kind, and the situation quickly spirals out of control.

    This intense novel of love, jealousy, guilt and friendship takes place over a single day and turns everything readers think they know about truth and lies, sexuality, love and redemption upside down.

    Life Cycle of a Lie is Sylvia Olsen’s fourth book of teen fiction.

$14.95

Out of Print
Middle Row
Author: Sylvia Olsen
Format: Paperback
  • The seating on the bus is different this year. That's because Raedawn and I and Sherry and Steve crossed the line.

    In the face of ignorance and racism, Vince and Raedawn try and find out what has happened to Dune.
    Things have changed since Raedawn and Vince started going out and the racial boundaries in town have slipped a bit. But when Dune, who never took sides, disappears, Raedawn is determined to find out where he has gone—or what happened to him. Fighting against ignorance and hate, they track Dune down and find he is in more trouble than they thought and that nothing is black and white.

    Fry Reading Level: 2.4

$9.95

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The Girl With A Baby
Author: Sylvia Olsen
Format: Paperback
  • Fourteen-year-old Jane accepts the consequences of her decisions about becoming a mother, good and bad, and pushes through prejudices the former Jane just tiptoed around. This Jane is a strong link in something bigger than herself.

$9.95

Out of Print
White Girl
Author: Sylvia Olsen
Format: Paperback
  • Until she was fourteen, Josie was pretty ordinary. Then her Mom meets Martin, "a real ponytail Indian," and before
    long, Josie finds herself living on a reserve outside town, with a new stepfather, a new stepbrother, and a new name, "Blondie." In town, white was the ambient noise, the no-colour background. On the reserve, she’s White, and most seem to see her only for her blond hair and blue eyes. Bit by bit, the place itself, the reserve, the run-down houses, the way the people live in them and around them, the forest and the sea, finds its way into her, like nothing else ever has, or ever will.

$9.95

In Re-Print
Yellow Line
Author: Sylvia Olsen
Format: Paperback
  • Vince Lives In a small place that is divided right down the middle--natives on one side, whites on the other. The unspoken rule has been there as long since remembers and no one challenges it. But when Vince's friend Sherry starts seeing a native boy, Vince is outraged and determine to fight back--until he notices Raedawn, a girl from the reserve. Trying to balance his
    community's prejudices with his shifting alliance, Vince is forced to take a stand, and see where his heart will lead him.

$9.95

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A Different Game
Author: Sylvia Olsen
Format: Paperback
  • In this sequel to Murphy and Mousetrap, Murphy and his three friends, Danny, Jeff and Albert, are making the transition from the tribal elementary school to the community middle school. They are all trying out for the middle school''s soccer team, and they''re pretty confident that The Formidable Four will all make the team. But once the tryouts begin, Albert, the tribal-school superstar, plays like a second stringer. Murphy''s new friend, Molly, is determined to help the boys find out what''s wrong with Albert, but when they discover the truth, they realize that Albert is playing a whole different game.

$7.95

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Catching Spring
Author: Sylvia Olsen
Traditional Territory: Tsartlip
Format: Paperback
  • Bobby lives in Tsartlip First nation on Vancouver Island. More than anything, he would love to enter the upcoming fishing derby. But how can he do that with no money, no boat and no time?

$7.95

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Counting on Hope
Author: Sylvia Olsen
Traditional Territory: Coast Salish, Tsartlip, Lamalcha
Format: Paperback
  • Hope and her family travel from England to their new home on an island off the coast of British Columbia in the 1860s. Hope thinks that she has arrived in paradise. She is right … until whiskey traders arrive.

    Letia and her family are Lamalcha people who winter on Kuper Island and move to Wallace Island in the summer. The problem is that Letia's summer camp is on the island that the Crown has deeded to Hope's family. When the two girls meet, against the wishes of their mothers, their stories intersect.

    Set against the backdrop of the confusing events surrounding the English colonization of British Columbia, and an 1863 naval assault on Kuper Island, Counting on Hope tells the story of two girls whose lives are profoundly changed when their two cultures collide.

    Alternating between free verse and prose, Sylvia Olsen follows the girl's individual storylines before, during and after their meeting. She captures the wonder and joy with which Hope and Letia develop their friendship. She also describes the tragic events, suspicion, fear and confusion that characterize so many early encounters between Europeans and the First Peoples. Ultimately a story of hope, this sensitively drawn depiction of innocence lost and wisdom hard won follows Hope and Letia out of childhood, off their island paradise and into the complex realities of an adult world.

    Ages 12+

$14.95

Out of Print
Molly's Promise
Author: Sylvia Olsen
Format: Paperback
  • When Molly learns a talent competition is coming to town, her friend Murphy (A Different Game, Murphy and Mousetrap) becomes her manager. Molly is certain she is a good singer—she has been singing in her head for as long as she can remember. She doesn't sing out loud because of a promise she made to herself. Years ago, Molly vowed that her mom would be the first one to hear her sing. The only problem is, Molly knows nothing about her mom, who left when Molly was a baby. With the talent competition only weeks away, she has to decide whether to break her promise to herself and let her voice out into the world, or wait for her mother's uncertain return before singing for anyone else.

$7.95

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Murphy and Mousetrap
Author: Sylvia Olsen
Format: Paperback
  • Murphy's mother has just moved him and their cat, Mousetrap, back to the reserve in Port Alberni. Being a light-skinned city boy thrust onto a reserve far from the city is not easy, but maybe Murphy has what it takes.

$7.95

Out of Print
No Time to Say Goodbye
Traditional Territory: Tsartlip
Format: Paperback
  • Children’s Stories of Kuper Island Residential School
    with Rita Morris and Ann Sam

    No Time to Say Goodbye is a fictional account of five children sent to aboriginal boarding school, based on the recollections of a number of Tsartlip First Nations people. These unforgettable children are taken by government agents from Tsartlip Day School to live at Kuper Island Residential School. The five are isolated on the small island and life becomes regimented by the strict school routine. They experience the pain of homesickness and confusion while trying to adjust to a world completely different from their own. Their lives are no longer organized by fishing, hunting and family, but by bells, line-ups and chores. In spite of the harsh realities of the residential school, the children find adventure in escape, challenge in competition, and camaraderie with their fellow students.

$9.95

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Which Way Should I Go?
Author: Sylvia Olsen
Traditional Territory: Tsartlip
Format: Paperback
  • In 2009, Which Way Should I Go? was the award recipient for First Nation Communities Read.

    Joey is a happy Nuu-chah-nulth boy, eager to help and quick to see the bright side of things. But when he loses his beloved grandmother, the sun goes out in his world. Fortunately, she has left something of herself behind, a song, which keeps knocking on Joey's heart, and a dance, which urges him to get up on his feet and choose again. Choosing was what their song was about, and Grandma's lessons prove strong indeed. Joey chooses to remember Grandma with joy and to take up his daily life again with a spring in his step.

$9.95

Out of Print
Yetsa's Sweater
Author: Sylvia Olsen
Format: Paperback
  • On a fresh spring day, young Yetsa, her mother and her grand-mother gather to prepare the sheep fleeces piled in Grandma's yard. As they clean, wash and dry the fleece, laughter and hard work connect the three generations. The reader joins this family in an old, but vibrant tradition: the creation of a Cowichan sweater.

$9.95

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