Brainerd native writes books with strong female sports characters
As a little girl growing up in Brainerd, Shelly Boyum-Breen described herself as a tomboy, mostly because she had four brothers and she loved to play any kind of sport. But when it came to reading books, she admits she didn’t exactly enjoy it.
“I think part of that was because I couldn’t find any characters that I could relate to,” Boyum-Breen said.
After watching so many advances in women’s sports from the 1970s Title IX reform, she was perplexed by the lack of sports books featuring strong females. She found books, for example, on cheerleaders and horseback riding, but it wasn’t representative of girls playing sports.
That’s what inspired “Shelly Bean the Sports Queen,” a book series about a little girl determined to learn different kinds of sports. On Feb. 5, Boyum-Breen was invited by Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary to be the featured guest author for “I Love to Read Month.”
Having never written before, Boyum-Breen decided to start outlining her own life story.
“At Brainerd [High School], I was about to become the first girl to score 1,000 points,” Boyum-Breen told WDC students. “The gym was packed and the opposing team, Monticello, got a technical foul.”
“I do my routine at the free-throw line, I go to shoot and I forget to straighten my legs -- I air ball,” Boyum-Breen told students.
Boyum-Breen said missing that shot was one of the biggest lessons of her life.
“I was humiliated! But I didn’t show it. 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.”
In her book series, “Shelly Bean the Sports Queen” learns how to play catch, play hockey and score a soccer goal.
“Just because Shelly Bean is a female character doesn’t mean it’s a book just for girls. She’s universal,” Boyum-Breen said. “If she falls down, which happens nearly every time, she’s going to get back up and try again because it’s something she really wants.”
Boyum-Breen read aloud “Shelly Bean the Sports Queen Scores A Soccer Goal” much to the delight of WDC students. In her book series, every time Shelly Bean accomplishes a sports goal, she makes a new charm for her crown. “It’s like a jewel of accomplishment,” Boyum-Breen said.
After coaching at Augsburg College and Anoka High School, Boyum-Breen worked with the Minnesota Lynx, the New York Liberty and the Women’s NBA organization. Boyum-Breen is also the founder and past president of Foundation IX, a nonprofit increasing the rate of girls’ participation in sports and fitness.
Boyum-Breen is a self-published author, who resides in Plymouth, Minn. Her books can be purchased on her website, shellybeanthesportsqueen.com.