Penguin Young Readers senior publicists Sara Zick (l.) and Samantha Dell'Olio hold the giant Million Dollar Throw Challenge check that will be presented to six winners during Mike Lupica's tour.

Life imitates art in a kid-pleasing promotional campaign Penguin has scheduled for Mike Lupica’s Million-Dollar Throw, due on November 3 with a 250,000-copy first printing. In the novel, a young football fan gets the chance to win $1 million if he makes an accurate toss of a football. Next month, youngsters attending the publisher’s Million Dollar Throw Challenges at six bookstores across the country will have the opportunity to compete for a $1000 prize by successfully throwing a football through a target featuring the novel’s cover art.

The campaign has its kickoff on the set of the Today Show on November 6. Lupica will be present on Rockefeller Plaza to watch as three youngsters, each representing a different literacy charity, throw a ball through a target. Penguin will donate $5000 worth of books to each charity. Subsequent challenges will be hosted by one bookseller in six cities: Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Dallas, Denver, and Los Angeles.

“We knew we wanted to do something really exciting and out-of-the-box for Million-Dollar Throw—something that hadn’t been done before,” explains Shanta Newlin, director of publicity for Penguin Young Readers Group, who coordinated the promotion. “We decided it would be fun to base events on the book’s premise and reenact the throw that the lead character makes. And Lupica’s books resonate with many kids to whom sports are important and with many kids who otherwise may not be big readers, so we thought fans would respond to this chance to do something interactive rather than attend a straight signing.”

When the publisher approached the author with this promotion idea, he was thrilled, Newlin says. Lupica will attend the six events, and at each one he will make a presentation, sign books and present the prize winner with a giant $1000 check. Penguin will supply each store with the presentation check, event signage, the target, a green runner meant to suggest a football field, and staff members to orchestrate the competition. The first 200 children ages eight to 15 who arrive at each store an hour before the event will be given a ticket making them eligible to throw a football at the target. Those who make the target will be entered into a random drawing for the grand prize; in the event that no throw makes the target, a random drawing involving all ticket holders will be held.

To select the cities where in-store throw challenges will be staged, Penguin consulted with its sales reps and with Lupica to pinpoint places with local pro football teams and large sports fan bases. Stores were then chosen to participate on the basis of their enthusiasm levels and ability to physically accommodate the contest.

One store that met those requirements is Chester County Books in Philadelphia, where events coordinator Thea Kotroba is looking forward to hosting a throw challenge event on November 10. “We expect a large turnout for this,” she says, noting that Lupica’s store appearance two years ago, when he was promoting the first two installments of his Comeback Kid series, “drew a huge crowd and was the best father-son outing we’ve ever had. He’s a very engaging speaker and both kids and adults loved him.”

At this challenge event, the football target will be set up in the store’s large back room, which has a ceiling high enough to allow for energetic throws. “I’m sure this is going to be very fun for kids and parents too,” says Kotroba. Fun even for those throwers who reach the target but go home without the grand prize? “This event is aimed at sports people, who understand that only one team can win,” she says. “That is something kids have to learn—and accept—at an early age. And since Lupica will be signing books, no one has to leave empty-handed.”

Million-Dollar Throw by Mike Lupica. Philomel, $17.99 Nov. ISBN 978-0-399-24626-5