Photo Credit: NBC Publishing
I don’t have any sons but I have six nephews. And without naming names, let’s just say a few of them need to be encouraged to spend as much time pouring over a great book as they do perfecting their pitch or soccer kick or hockey shot. What makes the situation that much more challenging for this aunt (and their mothers!) is it’s not always easy to find books that young boys will be excited to read.
Brian Brown, the story editor and senior producer of NBC’s Olympic coverage (yes, what a cool job!) heard that complaint from his mom, who’s a long-time reading specialist in Connecticut. “She’s been saying, ‘Get me something for the boys to read, get me some sports stuff, can’t you just do that?” Brian then did just what his mom asked. He wrote Ring Force, a fictional children’s book published by NBC Publishing about a young boy from Brooklyn, Henry Booker Garcia, who dreams of winning Olympic gold. On his bedroom wall, he has a poster of Muhammad Ali winning the gold medal in boxing in 1960. Like Ali, Booker chases the bus to school in the morning, hoping to become the first Latino American to be named the world’s fastest man. His speed leads him on an adventure that involves joining an elite force of kids trying to battle evil and keep the Olympic flame alive.
“When boys get a topic…and they can learn or they can become an expert in a topic, a topic that interests them, you hear this term deep dive,” Brown told me during an interview before leaving for London and the 17-days of Olympic coverage. “Well once boys find a passion, once you can get that spark lit, boys will learn something inside out particularly with sports.”
Boys (and girls) get the unique magic of the Olympic Games, said Brown, who has won an amazing 12 Emmys for his writing and producing work. I’ve seen it firsthand with my girls, ages 6 and 4 ½, as they recently started putting on play gymnastics competitions with their dolls where only one gets the gold medal. “I think even young children can understand only a few will get the chance so every moment matters,” said Brown. “It is like once you are an Olympian, you are always an Olympian, it’s like it’s tattooed on you… it’s like you are a part of a special fraternity for all time.”
Brown says the book should appeal to kids from 7 to 12, as well as kids in their early teens and moms of younger kids who could read a chapter a night to their little ones. (That’s what I plan to do!) He should know! His 16-year-old daughter gave him notes on drafts of Ring Force, his second novel. “I remember when she was born, I said that she was destined to help her dad write stories and work with him as a writer’s assistant… and now she can, she’s a good sounding board."
Of his 14-year-old son, he told me the story of his son’s camp bunkmate who read the book. “One of his bunkmates came up to me and said, ‘Gee, I loved your book, what a cool job.” Brian thought he had hit the jackpot. “When you have a kid come up and say to you, ‘Hey, I really liked your book, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
It’s like winning the Olympic gold!
Kelly Wallace, a mom of two, is Chief Correspondent of iVillage and will be covering the 2012 Summer Olympics for iVillage and NBCOlympics.com. Follow Kelly's tweets during the Games on Twitter (@kellywallacetv).