CHAZY - One local youth made such an impression on an author, he's become a character in his latest book.
Derek Drake, a seventh grade student at Chazy Central Rural School, has a minor character named after him in children's sports fiction author Fred Bowen's new book, "Touchdown Trouble."
The story of Drake's inclusion in the book dates back to last September, when Drake wrote a letter to Bowen as part of an assignment in Sonya Lambert's sixth grade class. In his letter, Drake wrote what he thought of Bowen's book, "Winner Takes All," the fictional story of a young boy on a baseball team named Kyle who fakes a catch which leads to his team winning the league championship.
"The book made me think about how I would react if I were in a situation like Kyle's," Drake wrote in his letter. "I understand that because Kyle made the catch behind the wall and nobody probably saw him, it was tempting for him to lie."
After reading Bowen's book, Drake wrote he will "always tell the truth."
The words in Drake's letter were moving enough for Bowen to not only name a character in his new book after him, but to acknowledge him in a speech as well. Though Bowen is an author and children's sports columnist for the Washington Post, he was also an attorney for the federal government for 30 years. And, in his retirement party last September, shortly after ter receiving Drake's letter, Bowen pulled out the letter and read to his friends and colleagues what Drake had written, demonstrating his motivation for wanting to retire from law and write full-time for children.
"I think they all understood at that moment exactly why I was retiring from the law," Bowen wrote in an e-mail to CCRS superintendent Kevin R. Mulligan.
"It was very well-written," Mulligan said of the letter. "The fact that this author believed so much in what Derek had written to put his name in a book certainly went above and beyond. It's great acknowledgment for a kid."
Drake agreed. He first learned of the character bearing his name through Mulligan over the summer and was surprised, to say the least.
"I sent [Bowen] a letter and didn't hear anything back from him and thought that was the end of it," said Drake. "Then, Mr. Mulligan called me and said, 'You're in a book and Fred Bowen wants to send you a copy.'"
Since it has been so long since he had written the letter, Bowen's name was escaping Drake at first.
"I had to think about it for a minute," he said. "I started looking through the book reports I had saved on the computer and I realized that was the author I had written to about sports and stuff."
The character, who bears both Drake's first and last name, is a player for the New York Jets football team, he explained.
"He's not a main character, but he's a pretty important one," said Drake. "He's a really good player and gets injured playing in a game. Everyone's getting really, really worried that they're not going to be able to win a game because he's injured." In addition to an autographed copy of the book for himself and copies for the school, Drake also received a letter from Bowen encouraging him to "keep reading and play ball."
"I thought that was really cool," said Drake. "I'll hopefully keep that for a while and look back on it when I get older."
"There's not a very good chance I'll ever be in another book," he added, laughing.
Touchdown Trouble and others in Bowen's AllStar SportsStory series - which Drake described as "a really good series" - are available through Bowen's Web site, www.fredbowen.com.