Tim Green released his 17th sports-themed novel for middle readers, Home Run, this month.
Home Run is a continuation of his bestselling “Baseball Great” series, and this time, Green takes three main characters his readers will already know and love, Josh, Benji and Jaden, who all appeared in previous books in the series.
As their lives intertwine, each character is taken on a new odyssey filled with conflict, action packed sports, and triumph of the spirit.
In a previous book, Josh’s parents separated, so Green looked for ways to incorporate that plot in a meaningful way into Home Run. As Josh’s father moves the family to Florida and settles then into an uncomfortably small apartment in a shady part of town, Josh begins to worry about their well-being. Josh’s traveling baseball team provides its own challenges, with a new coach who acts more like a drill sergeant than a team leader.
As Josh begins to feel like his life is falling apart, Benji informs him of a home-run derby in which the winner gets a brand-new house. All Josh has to do is hit twenty home runs during his travel-team season to qualify. With Benji and Jaden’s help, the three set out on a journey to save Josh’s family.
As Green explains, “I already had the characters and their personalities and their back stories. A lot of it was just imagination — looking for conflict, looking for a plot that I could twist and turn to come up with a surprise ending.”
Tim Green writes two middle reader level books a year for Harper Collins, one on baseball and one on football. His next football novel is set to come out in the fall and will centers around a boy who is deaf but still aspires to become a football player. In challenging this adversity, he seeks to find acceptance from both himself and his community.
This storyline, like many others, was inspired by the real students Green meets while touring the country, most recently to promote reading and physical activity for the NFL’s PLAY 60 / READ 20 campaign.
While on tour this past year, Green was particularly inspired by two boys he met — one in Iowa and one in Kentucky.
“Both fans of my books, both football players as I was, and they were both deaf and had cochlear implants,” Green explains. “The challenges and obstacles and experiences that they had really were the grist for that story. … Even though the conflict and everything is somewhat from my imagination, a lot of the anecdotes from the stories were taken from these kids’ real lives.”
He was impressed at their ability to cope with daily difficulties like people thinking they are mentally impaired because of their speech deficiencies, embarrassment over the look of the implants, and challenges in school and sports.
Although Green started out writing suspense novels for Warner Books, he was immediately interested in writing for kids as soon as a Creative Director from Harper Collins read one of his books recognized that his action-packed style would resonate well with children, especially ones who were more interested in sports than school.
Green was an active reader growing up, going on to study English literature as an undergraduate at Syracuse University (while making a huge name for himself on the school football team.) At Syracuse, he had the opportunity to take creative writing classes and study with literary legends like Tobias Wolff and Raymond Carver.
“I was around some incredible writers. Knowing them and being exposed to them kind of emboldened me to say, ‘They’re actually real people. Maybe I can do this too.’”
Getting into children’s literature, and finding the motivation to going on to write 17 novels is all about one thing for Tim Green: the kids.
“I’m having such a good time with the kids stuff and the impact that I’ve had on kids that I didn’t even know,” he says. “I love doing this. … Right now, I’m really in love with writing for kids and the response that I get.”
Green gets almost daily response on both his website and Facebook page from children all over the country, particularly from boys who may also be athletes telling him that they never read a book until they picked up one of his because they were drawn in by the sports theme.
At a school in New Jersey, Green spoke with a librarian whose 11-year-old daughter was a reluctant reader. The librarian would have to set a timer to get her daughter to read for a minimum amount of time, but she never read beyond that — until, that is, she found Green’s book “Unstoppable.”
“She just devoured it. She kept reading. She’s read every one of your books,” he says the librarian told him. “I actually get a lot of girl readers as well. It’s not just limited to boys, though boys tend not to be the readers that girls are. I think part of it is they think maybe you’re kind of wimpy if you’re a reader. Maybe they associate it with that. My background kind of shatters that myth.”
As Tim Green continues to tour the country, he’s excited to read excerpts from his latest novel and engage students in the storyline. It’s their excitement and interest in the material that makes the work worthwhile.