Best-selling author and sports journalist Dan Freedman kicked off the Summer Reading Challenge on July 15, at the Scarborough Library, in an exclusive event by National Literacy Trust. Creator of Jamie Johnson football novels, Freedman talked about his career as a football journalist, being part of the official England team among world’s famous players – Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi or David Beckham, working for television by adapting his novels for BBC TV series and much more. “My job was to interview them, to match reports and travel with them around the world, watch the game and get paid for it.” Freedman’s Jamie Johnson books have sold more than 800,000 copies globally.
Before becoming an author, he was managing editor for The FA for seven years and has been to two World Cups as part of the official England Team group. He was also part of the official delegations to meet the Queen, the Prime Minister and Nelson Mandela. “I worked with a generation of players. My job was to understand the story of those players, so I had so many stories about football in my head just bubbling around. And then sometimes, one conversation can change your whole life,” said the best-selling author Dan Freedman about his journey from childhood to becoming a football journalist and writing the Jamie Johnson series.
During the Summer Reading Challenge, Freedman also discussed about the challenges of getting the books published and getting a TV series developed. “I used all the experiences that I’ve had and this was at the time when Harry Potter was coming out. (…) There’s a different type of writing for TV than for books. When I’m writing a novel, I’ve got such a great luxury cause I can tell you what’s going on with my character’s head, I can tell you what they’re feeling. When you’re writing a script you don’t have that luxury, so for the TV you got to bring a script writer.”
The show’s plot is loosely based on the novels, about a schoolboy footballer experiencing family issues and playing for the school team. The series followed the self-titled character, portrayed by Louis Dunn, as he negotiates secondary school and issues at home, along with being a talented footballer. A brand new spin off series, Jamie Johnson FC, set in the world of elite academy football, is announced for 2023. “In the first season, we just wanted to show a kid with unbelievable football abilities starting new school and wanting to get a bit of attention,” stated Freedman when asked about the main character of the BBC series. The ideas of the successful Jamie Johnson novels “are all based on people, players or moments that I have met in life down the years. Football and life are so rich, you don’t need to make stories up.”
During this year’s Summer Reading Challenge, Dan Freedman shared a passage from his latest book “I Am Lenny Brown”, about an eight years old boy who “can’t speak when he’s at school. At home, when he’s with his mum and his dog, Rocky, he’s a big character but at school, the words won’t come out. Which is why moving to a new school is going to be one of the biggest challenges of his life. More than anything, Lenny wants to feel accepted and he’d love to make friends – especially with Layla, the coolest girl in his class. So when Lenny finds a new way to express himself, it’s a complete game-changer.” You can find out more about Lenny Brown from this interview , available on Dan Freedman’s official website. Additionally, you can click the image below to order a copy, beautifully illustrated by Kajsa Hallström.
North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for libraries, Simon Myers, said for The Scarborough News: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with the National Literacy Trust to bring top children’s author Dan Freedman to Scarborough Library at a very special launch of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge. Signing children up to the annual challenge is a great way for parents and carers to help them maintain their reading levels. The Ready Set Read! theme aims to keep children’s minds and bodies active over the summer break.”