Felice Arena Biography (1968-)
Felice Arena took a long detour between graduating from college as a certified elementary school teacher and beginning to write children's books. He had a successful career as an actor for many years, capped by the role of "Marco Alessi" on the popular Australian soap opera Neighbours and several starring roles in musicals in London's West End theater district. Arena left acting to become a full-time author and a popular guest speaker in schools. As critics have noted, his books appeal to reluctant readers, particularly young males. Partially because of his success at reaching this audience, Arena receives many requests by teachers, as he told SATA, "to visit their classrooms and excite readers about learning."
Published in England, Arena's first book, Dolphin Boy Blue, features a story about a teenage boy who is a champion swimmer, as Arena was at that age. (At one point, Arena owned the under-fourteen record for the fifty meter butterfly in Victoria.) One summer vacation, thirteen-year-old Mickey befriends a dolphin named Dana. Mickey discovers that he swims better and faster as he and Dana slice through the ocean waves together, but then he must find the confidence to leave Dana behind and transfer his newfound skills to chlorinated racing lanes. "I concentrate on the feel-good factor," Arena told Daily Telegraph interviewer Liz Deegan. "I prefer to write about striving for your goals, achieving your dreams."
Arena partnered with his old school friend and former Melbourne Football Club star Garry Lyon to write a series of books about Specky Magee, a boy whose art-loving parents cannot comprehend his obsession with Australian Rules football. The books have proved to be a smash hit with Aussie youngsters. "I'm getting hundreds of letters from parents and teachers that say, 'My kids are reading again,' which is the biggest inspiration for me to continue writing," Arena said to Courtney Walsh of the Herald Sun.
Also focusing on a young male readership, Arena has teamed up with fellow Australian children's author Phil Kettle to create "Boyz Rule!," a popular series themed around boys' recreational interests. According to the Children's Book Council of Australia's quarterly journal Reading Time, the series is "of premier appeal to boys in the lower-middle primary school and would be a worthy inclusion in a reading program."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Daily Telegraph (Surry Hills, New South Wales, Australia), November 30, 1996, Liz Deegan, "Playing in the Write Arena," p. 93.
Herald Sun (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), June 1, 2002, Eddie McGuire, "Showing the Right Stuff," p. 114; July 24, 2002, Courtney Walsh, "Taking Author at His Word," p. 12.
Mirror (London, England), June 29, 1996, review of Dolphin Boy Blue, p. 3.
Reading Time, February, 2004, review of "Boyz Rule!" series.
Felice Arena Home Page, http://www.felicearena.com/ (January 11, 2004).
Brief BiographiesBiographies: (Hugo) Alvar (Henrik) Aalto (1898–1976) Biography to Miguel Angel Asturias (1899–1974) BiographyFelice Arena (1968-) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Writings, Sidelights