For an athlete with a half dozen Olympic medals, writing a children’s book may seem like no big deal.
But for Ontario’s Andre De Grasse, who came home with four medals at the recent Games in Japan, it is another opportunity to inspire the next generation.
“I always read to my kids, and I realized that I had a story myself that I wanted to share with them, and what better way than with my own book,” De Grasse told Black Press Media.
The Canadian sprinter put the year-long delay for the international competition to good use, finishing work on a children’s book alongside Victoria writer and historian Robert (Lucky) Budd and Toronto illustrator and comic book artist Joseph Osei Bonsu.
Race With Me! takes a young reader along for the ride, getting ready for race day with world champion De Grasse.
Budd was tagged for the project about a year ago, having previously worked with Olympian Simon Whitfield, also a Greater Victoria resident.
For Budd, getting the emotion and depth required meant pushing De Grasse to think about sights, sounds, smells and feelings of competition. “Kids don’t want to know what you’ve done, kids want to know what it’s like,” Budd explained. “It was intense getting it done for sure but there was joy in it.”
The resulting story walks young readers through a race.
“I hadn’t really thought about it from that perspective until Lucky asked me… I’m hoping it helps readers to get a sense of what it actually feels like to run that fast,” De Grasse said.
A highlight for Budd is the messaging. It’s not about winning, it’s about the joy and fun of running.
De Grasse agreed: “Its messages about doing your best, not giving up and loving what you do are important to hear every day.”
The messaging and mentorship that come through in the book are a source of pride for all three men.
“Kids are going to be inspired, whether they’re athletic or not,” Budd said.
Osei Bonsu said the timing was also critical, for the same reasons that delayed the 2020 Olympic Games into 2021 – impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and its restrictions. “With kids being away from school and being away from friends you have to kind of lift their spirits.”
The highlight though for De Grasse came once he had his hands on the book.
“Seeing a finished copy and actually being able to read it to my kids was pretty special,” De Grasse said.
Race With Me! – available in both Canada’s official languages – is recommended for ages 6 to 10 and is available at local bookstores and online.
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