Road Trip Dad - Introducing
Quick Stick Harry
Dan Witmer | January 11, 2021
A different title that went through my head was, “Say hello to my little friend…” I think I made the right choice.

Lacrosse people near and far, let me introduce you to your newest favorite 10-year-old lacrosse player. Quick Stick Harry is his name, and lacrosse is his game.

Quick Stick Harry and the Ball Hog is a children’s book was just published in December. It’s a 40-page tale that has it all – but don’t worry; no spoilers here! – Harry and his Mud Dog teammates Lax Bro Johnny and Ball Hog Billy, the big game, a positive role model coach (named Gilman!), face-offs, behind-the-back passes, even a cameo appearance from some typical youth sports parents… and more!

I received my copy in the mail on Wednesday. Quick Stick Harry and the Ball Hog is the first book in the Quick Stick Harry Series, and its author is one of our own. John Sardella is a former teacher, administrator, and lacrosse coach in the Liverpool Central School District, and he is one of the founding fathers of the Brine Upstate Lacrosse League (BULL), now the Upstate Lacrosse League, home of hundreds if not thousands of boys and girls youth lacrosse players each summer.

I wrote about John’s A Journey Without A Map just last March, his tribute to his wife Margaret, who lost her battle with cancer four years ago (http://www.justlacrosse.com/20archives/blogs/witmer_yellowlacrosseball.htm). Long before that, he also wrote L is for Lacrosse and How to Start a Successful Youth Lacrosse Program (the children’s alphabet book is available on amazon.com; the “how to” book is, unfortunately, out of print).

But Quick Stick Harry is different. I spoke with John on the phone this past week, after QSH had been available on shelves and on-line for a few weeks. When I called, John was on a beach in Florida; I was in my basement, procrastinating about taking my dog for a walk with the temperature in the teens…

RTD: What were the origins of QSH? 

JS: I was pleased with A Journey Without A Map, but I started thinking, “I don’t want this to be my last book.” Then, this past summer, I was thinking about selling our house in Liverpool, so I was going through boxes of stuff I had worked on years ago. L is for Lacrosse was written way back in 2000, and after I wrote that book I was toying around with the idea of more children’s books. The Quick Stick Harry idea goes back that far; Harry is my son’s name, and the name just sounded right. When I found those 20-year old notes, I started re-visiting the idea.

I thought about a series like Quick Stick Harry Plays Attack, and Quick Stick Harry Plays Defense, etc., but it seemed like those kind of instructional books were already out there. The more I thought about it, the more things started to take shape. Harry needed a friend and teammate, and that’s when Lax Bro Johnny was born.

RTD: Lax Bro Johnny?

JS: Great name, huh? Wait till the second book in the series; you’ll find out all about Johnny!

RTD: Your press guide says there’s a third book in line, too? 

JS: Yes! Quick Stick Harry and the Legend of Lax Bro Johnny should be out by February – hopefully – and then, by the end of the year, readers will meet Ground Ball Gabby. If all goes well, there will be more books in the series.

RTD: Wait a minute – let’s review the names of the Sardella family… 

JS: Yes, my son’s name is Harry. And I’m John, of course…

RTD: Are your daughters waiting for their turns? 

JS: We’ll see. The names have to just fit right. I didn’t even think of the John/Johnny connection when I created that name and character; I just liked how Lax Bro Johnny sounded. We’ll have to see if I can come up with something for Julia and Megan.

RTD: So… Gabby?

JS: Hey, the names just have to have the right ring to them. I first thought of Scooping Suzie, but it just wasn’t as good as Ground Ball Gabby. My friends have been offering me plenty of names for future characters, as well as suggestions for some additional plot lines. Not all of them are exactly child-friendly!

RTD: And… the Mud Dogs? We might have expected the Rams, or Red Dragons, or even Warriors… 

JS: I wanted a unique name, so I named Harry’s team after the South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs – from The Waterboy, of course – one of the greatest movies ever made!

RTD: Impressive. Who did the illustrations? 

JS: Finding an illustrator might have been one of the toughest pieces to this project. Three different artists fell through, and it wasn’t until I signed on with a publisher, Tellwell Talent, that they provided me with different options. I got lucky; I got to work with my first choice illustrator, an artist named Rob Westall. We shared a bunch of different ideas and drafts, and I even sent him a photo of my son when he was a young lacrosse player, and Rob used that in his iteration of Quick Stick Harry. I love what we ended up with!

RTD: I noticed that your laxers don’t wear helmets.

JS: That was a conscious choice. In my L is for Lacrosse book, my illustrator had helmets on the kids at first, and I didn’t like that. You couldn’t see their faces, so when Quick Stick Harry came along, I asked the illustrator not to put helmets on the players. I wanted readers to see their faces, their expressions. To see the joy, the frustrations, and the grit and determination on their faces… that’s more important than their head protection.

RTD:Harry isn’t published by the same people who did your Journey book. How did you find your publisher?

JS: I did a lot online searching and also looked at self-publishing, trying  to do everything  on my own. I decided it wasn’t worth it, and I eventually found Tellwell, and they’ve been great. Our agreement is for the first two books; after that, we’ll see. 

John says his book is targeted for children ages 2-10, and early sales on Amazon have gone well. Live book-store signings and elementary school classroom visits don’t appear to be viable at this time, but he’s hopeful for the future.

For more information about John and all of his books, go to his website at https://www.johnsardella.com/quick-stick-harry-childrens-book-series. You can also find him on Twitter at @sardella_john, and he can be reached via email at ajourneywithoutamap@gmail.com.

In closing, here’s the teaser used on the book’s back cover and on Amazon:

“Follow Quick Stick Harry and his best friend Lax Bro Johnny, as they play the game of lacrosse. Follow the stories of how Lax Bro Johnny got his name, the excitement of winning a championship, and many other experiences as they learn about the game and meet new friends.

Boys and girls will be able to relate to Quick Stick Harry and Lax Bro Johnny while enjoying the colorful illustrations of the book. In addition, another character who will be introduced is Ground Ball Gabby, the best girls’ lacrosse player in the neighborhood.

This book series is a must-have for every child who loves sports, especially lacrosse.”

Copies of Quick Stick Harry and the Ball Hog are available online at Amazon.com - $17 for hardcover and $10 for paperback. To order a copy (or more!), go to https://www.amazon.com/Quick-Stick-Harry-Ball-Hog/dp/0228844940.

Happy reading!

In the meantime, please drive carefully, and stay safe, stay smart, and stay kind.

- Dan Witmer daniel.witmer@oswego.edu

Dan Witmer is the author of two books.  The Best of Road Trip Dad – the Laker Lacrosse Collection  is an accumulation of 45 articles written for JustLacrosseUpstate between the years 2012 and 2018, about the history and traditions, the people, and the stories of the Oswego State men’s lacrosse program. The book is available on Amazon.com, and at the river’s end bookstore in Oswego, the SUNY Oswego College Store in the Marano Campus Center, The Sports Outfit on West Genesee Street in Fairmount, and Geared 2 Sports in Cortland.  ...and piles to go before I sleep - The Book of Wit  is his memoir describing his 33 year career teaching HS English and coaching at Hannibal Central School. It is available on Amazon.com and at the river's end bookstore.