As the father of three sons, Sean Faircloth has read a lot of stories aloud over the years. Some books and stories were politely tolerated among his listening audience. Some were massive hits.
“It’s really such a challenge to write something that can engage a kid’s interest for a long period of time,” said Faircloth, who is also a Bangor City Councilor. “I knew that was something I wanted to try.”
Years after he had that initial dream to write a book for young people, Faircloth has finally published his debut novel, “The Enchanted Globe,” a fast-paced adventure story geared toward middle school-age youth. The book, which has an official release date of Tuesday, Dec. 6 — though it will be available sooner — is published by ImpWorks, an imprint of Pitchstone Publishing.
“The Enchanted Globe” tells the tale of brothers Brendan and Ryan (named after Faircloth’s real-life elder sons) and their friend Gabrielle (a name also inspired by a real person) who discover a mysterious golden object, deep in the Maine woods. That object transports them, via a magical sphere, on a wild goose chase across the planet, meeting fascinating people, visiting exotic places and solving increasingly difficult puzzles in order to defeat frightening villain McGrab.
While it’s first and foremost an adventure story, hidden underneath all those plot twists and turns is an educational book that aims to inform and educate youngsters about geography. Like “The Magic School Bus” or the “Carmen Sandiego” franchise before it, “The Enchanted Globe” is a teaching tool that also is a whole lot of fun.
It’s not Faircloth’s first book. He published a nonfiction book, the socio-political treatise “Attack of the Theocrats,” in 2012. “The Enchanted Globe” could not be more different and is much more of a labor of love for Faircloth, who served as Bangor’s council chair in 2016 and served five terms in the Maine legislature before that.
“I just wanted to write a good story for young people, a fun story, a story that keeps moving,” Faircloth said. “I wanted it to be something where, if you’re 11, this is something you’re going to be excited to keep reading and not get bored.”
Faircloth has a history in working to bridge the gap between fun and education. As the founder of the Maine Discovery Museum in Bangor, making learning fun for children has been something he’s been passionate about for a long time.
The study of geography is of particular interest to him. A 2014 study by the National Assessment for Educational Progress showed that just 27 percent of U.S. eighth-graders were at least proficient in general geographic knowledge and that 25 percent of U.S. eighth-graders had below basic general geographic knowledge.
“I became pretty invested in this idea, that geographic knowledge among kids in the U.S. compared to other nations is pretty lacking,” Faircloth said. “I feel that does relate to a welcoming perspective about the world. … And that’s pretty understandable. We’re on this huge continent with an ocean on either side. There aren’t really other countries we can easily visit, like in Europe, for example.”
Nevertheless, sitting around and memorizing national capitals and where places are on a map is not exactly a fun activity for the average 11-year-old.
“I think things like memorizing lists of countries is a good thing, but I think for a lot of kids that is not going to be fun for them,” Faircloth said. “So I thought, ‘Is there a way to get to this topic that isn’t that?’ And I landed on this kind of fantasy-adventure story.”
Brendan, Ryan and Gabrielle, the book’s protagonists, are accompanied by Eratosthenes, a fictionalized version of the real ancient Greek scholar, known to history as the father of geography. The group bounces around the planet, visiting strange and unusual places worldwide, from Namibia’s Skeleton Coast to the Rock of Gibraltar and from the Amazon Rainforest to Plum Pudding Island in the South Pacific. A study guide is included in the back of the book to help parents and educators alike start discussions about the characters and places encountered in the story.
“My biggest hope is that kids reads this and afterward wants to learn about the places that they visit,” Faircloth said. “I hope that this is a door that opens into a wider world.”
Young Mainers in particular will find lots to enjoy about “The Enchanted Globe” — the story starts in Maine, features highly recognizable Maine people, places and things, and carries with it an overall spirit of the state and its inhabitants.
“It starts and ends in Maine, and I tried to weave in some elements of things that I believe are Maine values, like independent thinking and even contrarian thinking, and that that’s a positive value,” Faircloth said. “I reference [Henry David] Thoreau in this a lot.”
Now that the book is finished and published, Faircloth is pondering what else to do with the story. It’s ripe for other educational products, such as a video game, a prospect he’s discussed with local game designer Chuck Carter.
Mostly, though, he’s excited to get the books into the hands of young people. After all, the book has been through the critical gauntlet among his target audience. Faircloth’s toughest critic is his youngest son, 11-year-old Declan, who was unofficial editor for “The Enchanted Globe.”
“He gave me editorial notes throughout the entire writing process,” Faircloth said.
Faircloth will be signing copies of “The Enchanted Globe” at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at The Briar Patch in downtown Bangor. At the signing, children and parents can get a “passport” they can take with them to activities after the signing at the Bangor Public Library and the Maine Discovery Museum. At the Maine Discovery Museum, Bangor-based video game designer Chuck Carter will discuss his ideas for a video game based on “The Enchanted Globe.”
“The Enchanted Globe” will be available at local booksellers, as well as online via Amazon.