Stories for Uplifting the Narrative for Black Youth-Author Crystal Allen and More Stories

July 15, 2016

How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy by Crystal Allen and More Stories


Crystal Allen wrote a remarkable story about a young African American male for all children to enjoy. Lamar is a funny, clever, and talented bowler in the story How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won A Bubba-Sized Trophy. She wrote about Lamar since, “There are so many incredible books about African American history. However, I wanted to write a contemporary book about an African American character where race did not drive the story.”

Lamar’s character demystifies stereotypes as to what it means to be a black youth. Lamar had a gift for bowling, and he wanted to be the best athlete in his home. So, he competed with his brother, Xavier, who was a basketball superstar. Their father had great ambitions for Xavier, and fewer for Lamar. Lamar wanted his father’s attention so bad that Lamar pranked his family and friends. He wanted to take the easy way out in order to get what he wanted. “In the end everything that Lamar should have known came down to Lamar cheating in bowling. I wanted to make the reader see that you have to work for things, and taking the easy route is not always the best route,” said Crystal.

This story needs to remain in the hands of readers because today only 14% of African American eighth grade students read at or above the proficient level. So this means that millions of children are not reading where they should be and they do not have access to books that are interesting to them.  Additionally all children are struggling to read successfully by 4th grade. The fact that Lamar is a story about a contemporary black child, youth need to read about him because they build a character-reader relationship and are more likely to relate to the story.

Pennez spoke to Crystal Allen about How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won A Bubba-Sized Trophy.  A major part of the story is Lamar’s love for bowling. Asthma kept him away from playing other physical sports, but bowling made him who he was. When Lamar was playing his perfect game as normal, a hustler Billy Jenks sees Lamar and pretends to be his friend. “I made Billy Jenks pretty obvious and I wanted the reader to see Billy even if Lamar was naïve about him.”

For Crystal, writing about bowling was easy. Her family bowled, they worked at a bowling alley, and her father even played in bowling leagues. “When I lived in Fort Belvoir, my dad worked at a bowling alley. Both of my parents had jobs at the bowling alley and many times they took me with them. While my father managed the bowling alley, and my mother worked in the snack bar, I was bowling. I ended up loving bowling. My dad was even on a bowling league. Some of my uncles and his brothers bowled on the same team. So bowling was something that I knew about.”

After she had her sons, she wanted to write stories. She wanted to write about bowling because she knew it so well. However, she realized that there were not any fictional books with a young bowler as the protagonist. “I observed when I went to bowling alleys that they were full of kids. So I wondered if there were any books besides the “how to” and “instructions on how to bowl.” At that time, I went to Borders bookstore looking for books about bowling. I wanted to see if there were any books out there where bowling was the main sport or back drop of the story. There weren’t any books.”


The characteristics of Crystal’s brother was the inspiration for Lamar’s personality. In this book, Lamar is a prankster and so were her brothers. So it was easy for Crystal to write about Lamar and Xavier. “Xavier and Lamar are just like my brothers. They competed all of the time. They fought just like siblings do. Both of my brothers were very good at basketball, and they could bowl, so making them competitive was easy.” Lamar had asthma, and so does her son. She also decided to use her family as a starting point for the characters because, “I wrote that story because I was running into so many young African American boys who didn’t enjoy reading. The schools make it mandatory that children read, and Kwame Alexander said it best, “They’re giving them stuff that is boring.” “So I wrote this story for young boys of all colors and hoped that they would enjoy reading it,” Crystal explained.

The relationships of each character guided this story. Sergio was Lamar’s best friend who could get whatever he wanted from his parents. Makeda was an emerging leader. Xavier was the basketball star in the family. Billy was the con artist. Then there was Lamar-the bowler. Crystal used the prank to show the difference in good and bad decision-making. We all know that true friendship comes when difficulty happens, and this prank was huge. “The prank was also important to show the strong friendship between Lamar and Sergio. It was a good friendship. They were great for each other. Lamar had some desires that were getting the best of him. Billy Jenks, being the con artist that he was, preyed on those desires.”

Alongside his friends, Lamar also had a strained relationship with his father. When Lamar’s mother was alive, he got the right amount of attention within his home. But once his mother passed, he realized how much more attention that his father gave to his brother, Xavier. “Taking Lamar’s mom out of the picture really showed how much of an anchor she was, and how her memories, and how her memories memories linger throughout the entire book.”

Despite the various storylines happening, Crystal weaved these different plots to life. “In reality, many children have multiple issues going on in their lives at the same time. Lamar had so many things going on, but Crystal was able to drive home that “If it’s too good to be true, then it probably isn’t true.” Lamar made a bad choice teaming up with Billy Jenks to make easy money and that bad choice eventually cost him every relationship in his life.


Visit Crystal Allen Books to find How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won A Bite-Sized Trophy. You will have a good time. Lastly, remember that even though this story represents a child of color that, “I wrote this story so young African American boys would read, laugh, and enjoy the story enough to pass it along to their friends. Hopefully they will realize the events that happened to Lamar could happen in anyone’s life.”


Below are additional books that shares positive narratives about our black youth.


Bronxwood by Coe Booth


As Brave As You Are by Jason Reynolds


8th Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich


Brendan Buckley’s Universe by Sundee T. Frazier


Crossover by Kwame Alexander


Black Boy White School by Brian F. Walker


The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds



X by Illyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon


To Catch A Cheat by Varian Johnso


The Lost Tribes by Christine Taylor-Butler


Booked by Kwame Alexander

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