Friday, 11/17/06

Friday, 11/17/06
How do you get those boys to read a book?
Try something with adventure or warfare . . . or both
Associated Press
NEW YORK — What do young teenage boys like to read?
Or perhaps that should be: "What? Do young teenage boys like to read?"
Getting some boys to curl up with a good book often isn't easy, with so many social,
athletic and high-tech distractions vying for leisure-time attention.
So in August, Sterling Publishing, in collaboration with books packager Flying Point
Press, introduced its Sterling Point imprint with eight books, all nonfiction, aimed at a
share of the market they say "has been notoriously difficult to reach" — boys between 11
and 15.
This is an especially important age for young readers.
"Studies indicate that kids determine whether they are readers or not by the time they are
11 or 12," says Frances Gilbert, editor in chief of Sterling's children's division. "But if
you put a really good book in front of a kid, he'll be reading."
Sterling Point books feature themes of adventure, exploration and warfare that would
seem to appeal especially (although not exclusively) to young males.
"My partner and I felt there was an empty space for exciting and adventurous books for
boys," says Steve Hill, president and publisher of the Boston-based Flying Point Press —
and, not incidentally, the father of two boys aged 11 and 15.
So he and Peggy Hogan started their company three years ago as a packager of such
books. (A books packager provides ideas and content to publishers, usually for a series of
books. The packager can provide finished books or only their components.)
For generations, boys have found excitement and adventure in fiction such as the fabled
Hardy Boys series of mysteries. But this is different — a foray into reality-based
"I think nonfiction can be as compelling as fiction," Hill says. "And I was always
frustrated by the fact that so many nonfiction books are found only in libraries and not in
Hill, who once worked for a major book publisher, believes there is a "bias among
children's book publishers that think boys don't read books."
"Boys don't choose to read. We're not enticing them to read," says Judy Nelson,
coordinator of youth services for Pierce County (Wash.) libraries. Nelson is also
president of the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American
Library Association.
When boys do read, she adds, "they are more inclined to read nonfiction."
The first eight Sterling Point titles include "Old Blood & Guts," a biography of Gen.
George S. Patton by Alden Hatch; "The Pirate Patriot," Armstrong Perry's account of the
exploits of John Paul Jones; "Lawrence of Arabia" by Alistair MacLean; and "The
Deadly Hunt," the World War II story of the sinking of the Bismarck, by William Shirer.
Easy-to-find endpaper maps are an important feature of the books. Says Hill: "When I
read, I always want to know where I am." The maps help readers locate the sites
described in the narrative.
The books are available in hardcover ($12.95) and paperback ($6.95) editions.
Some of the first eight, as well as future books in the series, were originally Landmark
Books, a series of more than 100 nonfiction titles published by Random House between
1950 and 1970. Hill, 57, was an avid young reader of Landmark Books and still has some
in his personal collection. The Sterling Point editions feature new looks, including
covers, maps and, in some cases, updated text and even titles.
Eight additional volumes are planned for spring 2007, including one brand-new book, the
first-person account of a bomber pilot who was captured during World War II; and
biographies of two adventurous women, Amelia Earhart and Sacagawea.
Hill notes that one of the series' goals was to find worthy heroes besides "music stars and
"We truly believe there are no good role models for kids this age," Hill says. "We believe
there is a hunger out there for some rollicking bits of adventure and intrigue." •