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11-year-old author wants kids to have fun

by ROBERTO ACOSTO The Flint (Mich.) Journal on April 23, 2013 10:49 AM

FLUSHING, Mich. — Do you remember what you did for fun when you were a kid?

Did you build a snow fort? Make up and sing songs? Or play the role of a knight slaying a dragon to defend a far-away kingdom?

For children and adults wondering what they can do, 11-year-old Flushing resident Sam Gross’s activity book “112 Ways For Kids To Have Fun Without Money” may be a good read.

The idea for the book came during a third-grade computer class project handed out by now-retired teacher Sue Londrigan, tasking students with thinking of ideas on how to have happiness without spending any money.

Sam took his creation home, not thinking much about it until his grandmother, Joan Rucker, brought it up to Marian Nelson. She operates Nelson Publishing and Marketing, which has published more than 130 children fiction/nonfiction and adult nonfiction works over the past eight years.

“She said I just want to show you what my grandson wrote, and it was really cute,” said Nelson of the conversation with Rucker.

After looking at Sam’s work, Nelson said, “It was better than cute. The idea behind it is that I think kids are so preoccupied with these little games and preoccupied with being preoccupied.”

“I think it really helps kids to look at a way they can have fun and just with normal, natural things around their home,” she said. “Sam really portrays it quite well.”

One of Sam’s favorite activities is “Play football with your family. Play flag football using bandannas for flags,” listed as No. 12 in the book. He’s played football the last three years on the school’s team.

“I’ve done about 80 percent of them,” Sam said of the activities in the book, with inspiration coming from activities he’s done with brothers Owen, Will and Bryce, friends, family and others.

Sam has held book signings at a Clinton Township mall, been interviewed on the Frank Beckmann radio show and presented his work to classmates who got into the spirit of the book.

One of the students took No. 19 in the book — Watch yourself try to eat a lemon in the mirror — a little too far, with Sam laughing, “He bit the lemon out of the peel and he ate it. That was really funny.”

Kate Gross, a preschool teacher at St. Robert, said the book’s reception has been “really positive” thus far, including the illustrations by Greg Rockwell.

Nelson said the message of the book is “Just look around you for all the fun that is around you. Take advantage of the natural indoors and outdoors and be creative. That’s what he did with this book is be very creative.”

Sam, who worked with an editor and publisher for more than a year crafting the final product, wants people to have fun with the book.

“I don’t want people to be bored. Being bored is a choice,” he said. “You don’t have to be bored. You can always do something to have fun.”

A 9 a.m. Saturday, May 4, book signing has been scheduled during a book fair at Barnes and Noble inside the Genesee Valley Mall in Flint Township.

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