MOORHEAD — In Caleb Boyer’s first published book, “Island Games: Mystery of the Four Quadrants,” best friends Matthew and Ryan find themselves trapped on a remote island with limited memory and resources.
Caleb, now 12 and a seventh-grader at Park Christian School in Moorhead, knows a bit about overcoming obstacles.
In 2009, his family home flooded, resulting in lots of car time driving daily from the waterlogged property to their temporary abode in South Moorhead.
“We had to drive from here all the way to our ‘south house,’ and I’d just read in the car,” Caleb recalls. “That’s how I developed my love of reading.”
Though he was only 4, picture books didn’t hold his interest; he craved chapter books.
“We started noticing his significant desire to read, so we began reading together as a family at night on the couch,” says his mother Rachael.
In time, she and Caleb’s father Jeff discovered their only child not only loved reading, but had an unusual gift: speed-reading.
“I make fun of my dad because he can only read a chapter in like 10 minutes, and I read the whole book in 10 minutes,” Caleb says. “I’ve just always read fast.”
At first, his family was skeptical. Rachael would question him to see if might be skipping pages.
“He said, ‘No, Mom, I just don’t worry about the punctuation or grammar,’ so he’s reading for the content,'” Rachael explains, “but he’s able to retain every detail about the book.”
“That’s how I study for tests at school, too,” Caleb adds. “I just read through all the chapters.”
But the stories floating around in his head finally needed somewhere to go, and last spring, the opportunity for Caleb to write his own book transpired.
At a work conference in Los Angeles, Rachael met a book publisher. After telling him about Caleb, the publisher said he wanted to publish his book.
Though there were costs up front, benefits included a “book architect” to guide Caleb through the process, editing and marketing assistance as well as keeping the proceeds.
After paying off expenses, Caleb plans to donate any remaining profits to children’s hospitals so sick kids might find hope in reading. He’s also made contributions to his school and youth group at Salem Evangelical Free Church, Moorhead.
After completing an outline this past spring, Caleb set about writing the chapters. He wrote each in about 90 minutes, completing the book in 41 days. Rachael served as his initial editor, assisting with grammar.
Caleb’s grandmother, Karen Knorr, believes Caleb’s love for reading began before the age of 4.
“When Rachael was pregnant, they’d read to him, sing to him, play music and pray with him, even in the womb,” she says. “When he was born, he was already so alert to what was going on around him.”
As a young child, she says, Caleb was very active and enjoyed being outdoors, especially in the summertime at the lake with his cousin Anthony.
But “his bookshelf kept getting larger and larger,” and at night, sometimes when he was supposed to be sleeping, she’d find him hiding under the covers with a light, reading.
“He’s just your normal typical kid who tries to see what he can get away with at Grandma’s house,” she says. “He’s an awesome kid, very respectful, and I’m just very proud of him.”
While he was writing this past summer, Karen often was around to monitor him.
“She’d watch the news while I went out (to the shop) to type,” Caleb says. “I’d come back in and she’d have cookies and caramel rolls waiting for me.”
Caleb and Rachael both admit, however, that at points, the process became stressful, and about halfway through, Caleb was ready to end it all. “I wanted to kill off the characters and be done,” he recalls with a smirk.
“Then I had to remind him that his book is about overcoming obstacles and pushing on in times you want to quit,” Rachael says.
Caleb now owns a company, Read Write Inc., through which he hopes to inspire other readers and writers. He’s already begun discovering how words — his words — have made a difference in others’ lives.
One boy who read his book, who typically doesn’t enjoy reading, told Caleb it’s the best book he’s ever read.
“He even left a review on a random website I’ve never heard of,” Caleb says.
An older woman shared with him that her reading of his book was perfectly timed; she’d just learned her cancer had returned.
“She told Caleb, ‘I really needed that message,’ ” Racheal shares.
Alluding to a beast in Caleb’s story, the woman added, “I’m going to keep fighting; my beast is my cancer.”
Though the Boyers’ faith is lived daily, which they mention in an author message in the book’s final pages, Rachael says anyone should enjoy the message regardless of their faith journey, which is what Caleb wanted.
“He told me, ‘I want people to read it just for readings’ sake’ and then that message is there for them, at whatever level they want it to be,” she says.
As to whether “Island Games” has launched a career as an author, Caleb isn’t sure. The imaginative young man wants to keep exploring his options, he says, suggesting he might invent a floating bookshelf, accessible through special glasses, which appears, then vanishes after the right book has been claimed.
“We do really feel the Lord has given him a message through the book,” Rachael says. “We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the value of the message he’s been given to deliver, and how, if he promotes the book, it could impact people’s lives.”
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on Dec. 24, 2016.]