THE STORY BEHIND WHO WINS?
There's a fear I have as a writer. It's not missing a deadline, inadvertently deleting a manuscript, or getting writer's block. It's telling a bad bedtime story to my daughter Lola. Because if my tale-telling isn't on point at nighttime, I'm getting called out by a sleepy seven-year-old.
Over the years I've told her hundreds of stories, covering cheerleading gorillas, nearsighted ogres, flippant elves, kimono-clad Komodo dragons, beetles in bow ties, time-traveling penguins, and even a serial saga about a weird talking avocado. But, if you're like me, the creative juices can sometimes run dry.
Thankfully, I have a secret weapon for when that happens: history. It all started one night after a particularly mind-numbing day. I had nothing original in the old noggin. What I did have was a pretty decent knowledge of cool historical figures. So, I told Lola the story of a glamorous teenage queen who lived in a French fairy-tale wonderland. I described how she wore her hair in four-foot-high updos, threw lavish costume parties, started wars, incited revolution, and became one of the most infamous women in the history of the world in the process.
Now, you probably know I was talking about real-life royal Marie Antoinette, but Lola did not. The truth is that most kids don't know Peter Pan from Harry Houdini, Dora the Explorer from Sacagawea, or Tony Stark from Nikola Tesla. They're all part of a collection of heroes and icons. Reality is blurred enough to where kids worship superheroes more than scientists, Jedi more than journalists, and puppets more than presidents. This bothers me. It's not that I have anything against fiction; it's just I think there's room for both.
So, I decided to do something about it.
It started with my telling Lola nightly nonfiction tales about women I thought she'd find fascinating: a scientist who lived with chimpanzees (Jane Goodall), a slave-freeing former slave (Harriet Tubman), the world's first nurse (Florence Nightingale), a fast-talking journalist who flew around the world in a hot-air balloon (Nellie Bly), and the woman who made it possible for all other women to vote (Susan B. Anthony).
She loved it. So did I. And that's how my upcoming book Who Wins?, in stores July 12, was born. It's the book version of my simple quest to make history interesting to my daughter Lola, and other kids like her.
But Who Wins? features a lot more than inspirational biographies. There are ne'er-do-wells, scoundrels, cheats, and oddballs, too. Allowing readers to mix and match 100 historical figures in 50 competitive categories, from ping-pong to climbing Mount Everest, Who Wins? turns history into a compelling game, which means kids learn while having fun in the process. Each famous person is given a short bio and ranked in six categories--bravery, leadership, artistry, wealth, wisdom, and fitness.
Sure, it's fun and silly, but more than anything, Who Wins? is my attempt to teach kids about those who came before us, and provide some perspective as to why they should be studied, honored, and even idolized.
Now, one of the things I cherish most as a dad is that my daughter and I share a passion for the past and a love of long ago. It's my hope that with Who Wins? you and your kiddos can laugh, learn, and bond over the magic of history and the powerful diversity of humanity, too.