When I was in elementary school, I vividly remember the Scholastic book order form and the excitement I had to put in an order. 

As the only girl in my class that played sports, I, like the most of the boys, gravitated to books about the football, hockey and basketball.  But never in the choices listed was there one about girls playing sports – no one who looked like me.  But I did play and continue to throughout my life.

30 years later, I was starting a non-profit to fund female athletes in Minnesota while also substitute teaching in a 5th grade classroom. There, I came across a scholastic book order form and wondered to myself ‘what books are out there now?’  Once again, all of them featuring boys but still no girls playing sports.  That was when the character of Shelly Bean was born.

I was born in 1974, two years after Title IX and one year after Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs. Since that time, girls’ participation in sports has grown to an all-time high but the books they read and the dolls they play with still represent princesses.

Shelly Bean the Sports Queen is a product of a new generation where being a “jock” is not only acceptable for girls, but encouraged.

Illustrator Marieka Heinlen captures the spirit of Shelly Bean.  In each story, she and her friends learn how to play a new sport and parents can utilize the instructional and safety tips at the back of each book as well.

Shelly Bean is a sporty, dirty kneed little girl with a “can-do” spirit.  It might take falling down, getting hurt and getting back up but Shelly Bean is determined to learn new sports and be great. After watching an event on TV or seeing other kids in the neighborhood, she gets it in her mind that it is her time to play and to reward herself each time she’s successful, she creates a new sports charm to put on her crown like a jewel of accomplishment.

Shelly Boyum-Breen

A native of Brainerd, MN, Shelly Boyum-Breen grew up with aspirations of playing professional sports.  She spent countless hours on the basketball court, neighborhood hockey rinks and local golf courses.  With a foundation of support from family, friends and the community, Shelly pursued a career as a physical education teacher and coach.  Boyum-Breen received her B.A. from Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN in 1997.   She spent five years in the education field, coaching the Augsburg Women’s Basketball Team and Anoka High School’s basketball and tennis teams.  Boyum-Breen then pursued a job with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx organization.  Shelly served with the organization for three years and later moved into a sales consulting role serving the Lynx, the New York Liberty and the 10th Anniversary WNBA All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden.

Boyum-Breen is the Founder and past-President of Foundation IX, a non-profit increasing the rate of girls’ participation in sports and fitness, who dissolved upon the merge with the Ann Bancroft Foundation.  “Sports helped pave my path in life, building my character as well as my leadership skills along the way.  No young lady should be prevented from experiencing these things because of her family’s financial situation.  It is my dream to eliminate cost as an obstacle and give girls more than money- the opportunity for experiences of a lifetime.  With Shelly Bean books and Let Me Play grants, we can do just that! It is an honor to work for girls in sports; and to continue the work that many have done long before me in the name of girls and women in sports.”

Shelly Boyum-Breen resides in Plymouth, MN.  

Marieka Heinlen

After designing books and working as a creative director in publishing, Marieka made the leap to
become a children’s book illustrator. Now with over 30 picture books in print, she loves creating
artwork that engages and educates young readers.  Marieka always aims to draw an environment
where all children can see themselves, as well as the big wonderful world around them.


Testimonials, recommendations and feel good things...

"Having Shelly visit our school was a great experience for both girls and boys! Shelly is able to connect with kids and deliver a powerful message that is important for all kids to hear."  Molly Thomas, Intervention Specialist, Red Oak Elementary, MN

"Shelly entertained all of our students with her wonderful storytelling of perseverance. She mixes her own personal stories with Shelly Bean's to keep kids of all ages engaged. The books have been popular both as stories and for the sports skills instructions included." Joan Magnuson, Media Specialist, Brooklyn Center, MN