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CLASS OF ’75

Sports Is the Story

 

Fred Bowen C’75 is an attorney with the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington. However, he is better known—to children at least—as the author of the best-selling AllStar SportStory Series. His books cover baseball and basketball and are intended for readers ages 8-12. He also writes “The Score,” a column that appears every Friday on the KidsPost page of The Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com/kidspost).

    After graduating from Penn as a history major, Bowen attended George Washington Law School; he married Peggy Jackson, a journalist, soon thereafter. His path toward becoming the author of a widely acclaimed children’s sports book series began, “because I was unhappy with the sports books I was reading to my son,” who was then seven or eight. (He’s 16 now, and Bowen also has an 11-year-old daughter.) Bowen had written movie reviews and other articles, and thought, “Hey, I can write books like this!” Most of the children’s sports stories he read used sports only as a backdrop. As a lifelong sports fan, Bowen realized that to a child, sports is the story.
    He began with a young-adult novel that had limited success before deciding to move to younger kid’s books. His first book in the AllStar SportStory Series was T.J’s Secret Pitch. He wrote a rough draft and showed it to his young son, who gave him some of the best advice he has ever gotten: “More games, Dad. Kids want to see more games.” So, he added more games, mixed in a bit of sports history and showed it to the sister of the head of Peachtree Publishing, who in turn passed it on to the publisher. Since then, there have been eight more books in the series, including Full Court Fever, Winners Take All and Off the Rim. (www.fredbowen.com)
    Bowen speaks at libraries and schools from New York to Los Angeles, and was hired to teach writing at St. Francis Episcopal Day School in Potomac, Md., and Woodacres Elementary School in Bethesda. In keeping with his history major from Penn, Bowen is always interested in getting kids to learn just a little bit more about the history of their favorite sport. “Sports is a good way to get kids into history,” he says, “Like the story of Jackie Robinson. This is a good way to really get them thinking, ‘Hey, that really wasn’t fair.’”
    Bowen has practiced law for 20 years, and has no plans to phase it out, explaining that he enjoys spending time in two very different worlds. At one school that he had visited on several occasions, a teacher remarked that the children were so happy to see him when he entered the classroom. Bowen replied with a chuckle, “They’re never happy to see a lawyer.” And he notes that the children, teachers and librarians whom he meets “are much nicer than the lawyers.”
    Bowen particularly enjoys working with children, noting that, “Kids are so open [and] uninhibited. They say what’s on their minds.” When he goes into the classroom to teach writing, he shows the children that they can do what he does. To help them develop characters, for example, he encourages the children to make a list of characteristics of someone they know—say, Fred Bowen. “The kids smile at me, and then they let me have it.”

—Jonas Raab C’02


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Copyright 2001 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 3/6/01

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