Thursday, September 1, 2005

Elves Can't Kick

- Book Written By Howard's Former Team Chaplain -
July 1, 2005, Grand Island, Nebraska - - When Wyckoff, New Jersey, children's author Robert Skead first met former New York/New Jersey MetroStars goalkeeper Tim Howard, he never anticipated a children's book would someday be the result of their friendship. At the time, Skead didn't know much about soccer and wasn't a big fan of the game. Today, things are different for the 40-year old writer: he considers himself a student of the game, one of Tim Howard's biggest fans - and is celebrating the launch of his new children's-soccer book ELVES CAN'T KICK (July 2005, $7.99, 84 pages, For ages 6 and up, ISBN 1-929478-66-6, Cross Training Publishing & Tale Blazer Productions, distributed by Baker & Taylor).
In addition to writing children's books, Skead also serves the players on the NY/NJ MetroStars as their team chaplain as a staff member of Athletes in Action. It was through this role that Skead and Howard became friends. Athletes in Action is a nonprofit organization that helps professional athletes use their platform in society to be positive role models in their communities. The friendship with Tim Howard soon prompted Skead to be inspired to expand his elves-sports book series (Elves Can't Dunk and Elves Can't Tackle) to include soccer and a character named "Howard."
In ELVES CAN'T KICK, Sebastian the elf and his friends Holly the elf and Ralphy the polar bear are on a secret mission to get back Mrs. Claus's baking recipes, stolen by the world-renowned Domestic Diva Bertha Hayworth (she has more spunk and gadgets than even Martha Stewart!), who is jealous of Mrs. Claus's sudden success in the Christmas treats business. In the process, Sebastian and the gang help teach a losing soccer team, owned by Hayworth, the recipe for winning- teamwork, and impart an important lesson that stealing is wrong to "Big Bertha."
"I never played soccer as a kid so I never imagined that one day I'd write a soccer story," said Robert Skead. "But through my friendships with Tim Howard and a few other players on the NY/NJ MetroStars who have been involved with Athletes in Action, it was just something that I had to do, if only to keep them from asking me 'When are you going to give Sebastian the elf a soccer adventure?'
"That question came up one day at Tim's apartment. Tim started jokingly throwing out titles like 'Elves Can't Save' or 'Elves Can't Block Shots,' but I liked the ring of 'ELVES CAN'T KICK' the best," said Skead.
"Later, when I began writing the concept for the story and came to the point where I had to name the goalie character, I knew right away that it had to be a combination of my two favorite MetroStars goalkeepers: Tim Howard, now playing for Manchester United, and Paul Grafer, now retired from professional soccer, who happen to also be best friends. And my character Paul Howard was born.
"The character is strictly fictional of course (like all the characters in the story)," Skead added, "and does many off the wall things. He has the misfortune of constantly banging his head into the goalpost when making saves, he really wants to be a chef instead of a goalie, and falls in love with the bad girl in the story - the mean-spirited cooking and craft business queen. Tim and Paul gave the story their blessing when they read the manuscript. They both got a kick out of the goalie character - I meant that pun - and loved the story."
"My mom always said I was a character. Now I really am one," said Tim Howard, who for the past two seasons has enjoyed being a goalkeeper for Manchester United, of England's Premiere League. "The story made me laugh out loud. The goalie character is obviously fiction -- I don't think I will develop a habit of accidentally colliding with goalposts. The main character is also described as handsome. That part must be related to me," Tim Howard jokingly said. "The character also reminds me a bit of Paul Grafer who loves to cook. ELVES CAN'T KICK is a fun story, and an entertaining read for soccer fans of all ages, especially young readers," Tim Howard concluded.
When he is not crafting stories, Robert Skead can often be found at schools speaking with children and adults about creative writing and the importance of discovering one's talent for a fulfilled life. For more information about his author visits, check out
Robert Skead's other works include Elves Can't Tackle, (September 2004, $7.99, For ages 6 and up), Elves Can't Dunk (September 2000, $5.95, For ages 6 & up), Hitting Glory - A Baseball Bat Adventure (Cross Training Publishing, September 2001, $6.99, Youth Fiction) and Safe at Home-A Baseball Card Mystery (Cross Training Publishing, September 1999; $5.95; Youth Fiction). All titles are available through Baker and Taylor Distributors at bookstores nationwide, via online booksellers like and, or by calling 800-430-8588.
The book is published by Cross Training Publishing, headquartered in Grand Island, Nebraska, and Tale Blazer Productions, which is developing an animated Christmas special based on Skead's book Elves Can't Dunk.
Media Relations Contacts: Author available for interview (Robert Skead @ 201-493-9536) or contact Gordon Thiessen, publisher @ 800-430-8588. To view a downloadable photo of Tim Howard with Elves Can't Kick, or the book cover, visit

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