In the world of boy-meets-girl dating, you don't have to be old – or even the right side of puberty – to be wise. This we know from the newfound fame of nine-year-old Alec Greven from Colorado, author of America's latest self-help book that is now set to become a major Hollywood film, How to Talk to Girls.
Alec was only eight when his teacher at the Soaring Hawk Elementary School in Castle Rock asked her pupils to write an essay about something they had observed about ordinary life. He chose to explore the perils of boys trying to win the attention of girls in the playground, offering tips for success.
"Boys have a lot of trouble with crushes," he said in an interview. "I wanted to help the boys with crushes. But I also wanted to say there is a girl for every boy and don't give up and don't think girls are gross. They are just girls."
The nuggets of wisdom from this "pint-sized pickup artist", as some have called him, include combing your hair, cutting down on sugar (to avoid being too hyper), and knowing that while 73 per cent of girls "ditch boys", 98 per cent of pretty girls do it. The pretty ones are "like cars that need a lot of oil".
The class essay might have remained just that had his teachers not been so tickled by it that they suggested Alec turn it into a stapled pamphlet which he was allowed to sell at the school's book fair for $3 apiece. It wasn't many days before the local media got wind of it and then along came the comedian and daytime talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres, who invited the boy onto her show.
Young Master Geven was, by then, set on a course towards stardom, which culminated first in his essay being released as a hardback book late last month by HarperCollins, with seven chapters of observations and tips, and then the announcement this week that Fox had signed the six-figure movie deal. His mother, Erin Greven, recalls how at first she didn't even know about her son's homework assignment. "I started getting emails from teachers saying, 'Oh, we just love your son's book. We think it's the funniest thing,'" she recalled. "So I called the teacher and said, 'What's going on? What's this book?' None of us even dreamed it would turn into something like this."
With book publishing in a slump, the Greven phenomenon is a ray of Christmas sunlight, particularly for HarperCollins. Fox, which like HarperCollins is owned by Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp, originally passed on securing its film rights but changed its mind after the book began to draw headlines.
Things that single men everywhere, young or old, might take from his pages include: Never seem too keen. "Girls don't like desperate boys," he writes. Highlight your best side. "You can also show off a skill, like playing soccer or anything else you're good at. If you are spurned, don't mope.
"Sometimes, you get a girl to like you, then she ditches you," our young romance guru notes. "Life is hard, move on! Or sometimes it just doesn't work out. I had a crush on a girl in preschool. Then my family had to move, so I had to let her wash out of my mind."