Falls Church’s Ben Brown is only seven years old, but the boy wonder already had his first story featured as the title track on a popular new children’s album.
Selected from more than 1,000 entries received every month from around the world by Story Pirates, Brown’s story “Backstroke Raptor” is about the adventures of a swimming dinosaur. The company’s podcasts have been downloaded more than 10 million times, according to its website and co-founder, Lee Overtree, who describes Story Pirates as “a leading advocate for arts education.”
Overtree’s writers, musicians and artists took the foundation of Brown’s story and sculpted it into a song with multiple singers and musicians who sound a lot like the B-52s.
In an interview at his home (just the second interview of his young life), Brown, wearing a favorite dinosaur shirt, said he watches “Funny videos sometimes and they make me laugh a lot, and I watched one about a dinosaur and that’s how I sorta got the idea.”
“I kinda like swimming and I like dinosaurs, and I decided why not make a swimming dinosaur?” And so he did.
Brown’s parents credit their sons’ nanny, Laura Huffman, for encouraging and helping Brown submit his story to the podcast, which they hear while riding in the car after school or when they run errands.
Huffman transcribed his dictation on the computer, Brown said.
His parents read to him and his brother, Joey, 4, a lot, said Brown and his dad, Stephen, who were seated at the family’s dining room table for the interview.
“Sometimes I read to them,” Brown added.
He’s already at work on his second submission, this one about “a girl dinosaur named ‘Yu’ [he spelled it] who eats dogs.”
“Raptor Brown is a she, a yee,” Brown said. “She eats a lot of things,” he explained, and the story is titled after her name.
He said he chose the title not so much because he’s a “Brown,” but the dinosaur “likes brown nail polish from age one. Technically, she lives in North America. No one really knows.”
Dad Stephen smiled and said Brown’s imagination has been soaring for a while now.
Stephen, along with his wife and Brown’s mother, Maryam, began saving Brown’s stories when their son began writing “just a few paragraphs” about two years ago.
“He was writing and telling stories with an incredible imagination, spinning yarns like, ‘Wow!’ There’s a lot going on there,” said Stephen.
Overtree agreed, noting that Brown’s story was selected as the title track of the new album because “It sounds like an album title,” wrote Overtree in an email. “Ben’s creativity and energy are off the charts, and I find him to be very inspiring.”
When Ben is not exploring dinosaurs, he likes to play with Legos, take swimming classes and he and his dad take piano lessons together. The Browns have lots of dinosaur toys and books at home.
Brown will soon spend a week at the Smithsonian’s upcoming “dinosaur camp,” where he, most likely, will visit the newest and biggest dinosaur in the museum, the nation’s T. Rex which was just unveiled last weekend.
When he grows up, Ben, a student at Basis Independent McLean, has told his parents he wants to be an engineer (like his mom and grandfather), a marine biologist or a paleontologist.
“As parents we are trying to understand how we can be advocates for [Ben and Joey] going forward,” Stephen said.
The Browns will soon move to Los Angeles for Mrs. Brown’s job but they won’t be far from the Story Pirates’ operation out there. “We should continue to be involved with them somehow,” Stephen Brown said.
The Story Pirates’ podcasts are refreshed weekly with a new story and song, all stemming from the imaginations of children.
They describe their new album as “the weirdest, wildest collection” they’ve made, and it brings out the laughter in even old kids (aka, “adults”).
Gimlet Media will release the album of Ben’s composition and 10 more, all by children, for $9.99 at iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon and more outlets than a dinosaur has bones, but not enough to match Brown’s ideas.