Lance Armstrong now has at least one yellow jersey. Confirming rumors that a third Armstrong book was in the works, New York publishing house Simon & Shulster announced they would be publishing The Boy in the Yellow Shirt.
While his first two books, written with sports journalist Sally Jenkins, were directed at an adult audience, the new book is pitched directly at children and penned by Armstrong himself.
The story tells the inspirational story of a young boy who wins a big bike race only to have the trophy — and his lucky yellow shirt — stolen. “It’s a timeless fable and rich with metaphor,” said April McNeary, a agent at Simon & Shulster. “It’s the kind of book that will delight both parents and their children.”
Those familiar with the long saga of Armstrong’s doping admission and fall from grace will find many fascinating parallels in the story. The boys’ trophy is stolen by a villain named Boss Travis, perhaps an allusion to the head of the United States Anti-doping Agency, Travis Tygart.
The young boy tangles with several dangerous adversaries including a crazy man with a pointy red beard who some readers will surely recognize as Armstrong’s former teammate and adversary Floyd Landis. Through many trials and tribulations, including a betrayal by an overweight TV talk show host, the boy wins back his trophy.
According to McNeary, it’s a book with plenty of entertainment and lots of heart. “I think Lance did some soul searching and spent a tremendous amount of time with his kids. People will be surprised by his sense of invention and playfulness but what sets the book apart is the emotional depth,” said McNearly.
At least one media critic thinks the book will go a long way to rehabilitating the image of the disgraced Tour de France champion. “Lance is a smart guy. He knows he’s lost credibility with adults — but he can still reach the kids,” said Mike Foollits, an analyst for OmniMedia. “That’s where you reframe the story — with the people who haven’t made up their minds yet.”
According to several people close to Armstrong, he will begin a cross country book tour when The Boy In The Yellow Shirt hits the stores on June 1st. “Lance is excited to connect with kids and since it’s summer vacation, he may bring his son Luke along,” said Bryan Kleck. “He really sees this book as a new chapter. We’re all pretty excited.”
For now Armstrong has refused on comment on the book but that has only served to feed additional media frenzy over the story. His two previous books, It’s Not About The Bike and Every Second Counts, were both best sellers and translated world-wide.
However, news of the new book has also raised plenty of questions. With Armstrong involved in numerous lawsuits and subject to financial claims in the tens of millions of dollars, the book may also serve another purpose. “This is all about generating income,” said Michael Strasser, a lawyer involved in the SCA Promotions case. “You know how much a best-seller bring in? He has no job and no prospects and with all the lawsuits, he needed a new revenue stream.”
With the publication of The Boy In The Yellow Shirt, Armstrong joins the list of celebrities who have written children’s books. Bob Dylan, Madonna, Sting and rap star Queen Latifah all have titles to their name.
It remains to be seen how Armstrong’s book will stack up, but those betting against the former champion may be surprised. “Lance doesn’t do anything half way — his book is going to the top of the charts.” said Livestrong spokesman, Dave Mulman. “He even got artist Damien Hirst to do the illustrations. That’s the guy who painted Lance’s art bikes. Some people are going to buy it because it’s an inspiration, some because it’s a cautionary tale you put those two together and you have a best seller.”
For now there’s no question that the Lance Armstrong story will go on and on.