MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s a message many have wanted pushed for years. The idea that being a jock is cool for both boys and girls, especially if you fall down and get right back up.
And that’s exactly what happens in “Shelly Bean the Sports Queen,” a book series about a little girl determined to learn sports and be great.
How the series came about is what makes the author, Shelly Boyum-Breen this week’s Minnesotan to Meet.
Boyum-Breen is the author and inspiration for the series.
A self-described tom boy with four brothers, Boyum-Breen found reading tough as a kid.
“I think part of that was because I couldn’t find any characters that resembled me,” Boyum-Breen said.
Breen coached for Augsburg College and Anoka High School for years.
She then went on to work for the Minnesota Lynx.
After watching so many advances in women’s sports, she couldn’t believe that while substitute teaching eight years ago, there were still no powerful female sports books.
“All I could find was cheerleaders and horseback riding, which is great, but it wasn’t representative of all the girls playing sports,” Boyum-Breen said.
Having never written before, she decided to pick up a laptop and start sketching out the story line she lived.
“At Brainerd High school I was about to become the first girl to score 1,000 points,” Boyum-Breen said.
The gym was packed and the opposing team, Monticello, got a technical foul.
“I do my routine and I go to shoot, and I forget to even straighten my legs and I air balled,” she said.
Boyum-Breen said that was one of the biggest learning lessons of her life.
“We high-fived and we kept playing,” Boyum-Breen said. “I scored it later and that’s part of the story. Things don’t always work out the way we plan them to.”
“Shelly Bean the Sports Queen,” has now gone on to play catch and hockey.
“Just because she’s a female character doesn’t mean it’s a book for girls. She’s universal. She resonates with both genders,” Boyum-Breen said. “If she falls down, which happens nearly every time, she going to get back up and try again because it’s something she really wants.”
But, every time Shelly Bean accomplishes a sports goal, she makes a new charm for her crown.
“Shelly Bean is not a princess, she’s a queen. She’s strong,” Boyum-Breen said.
Just like Boyum-Breen, who is re-defining what it means to throw, kick or shoot like a girl.
“I want her to represent to the next generation what a strong female looks like to boys and girls, so that they grow up and they become the advocates,” Boyum-Breen said.
Boyum-Breen is now working on having Shelly Bean score at soccer.
She does not illustrate the book; that is left up to local artist Marieka Heinlen, who has 30 books in print.
Boyum-Breen is self-published, so they’re only sold locally. You can find her books at all three Twin Cities Pacifier, Excelsior Bay Books, Red Balloon in St. Paul and a couple book stores in the Brainerd lakes area near where she grew up.