McKinley Elementary School families are accustomed to browsing titles penned by prominent authors at their annual book fair. Next year, there will be some familiar names in the mix.
Scholastic officials made a surprise visit to the Burbank campus Thursday where they announced that a fiction work written and illustrated by seven third-grade students had been selected as the grand prize winner in the company’s Kids are Authors competition.
“Two Dollars, One Wallet” will be published and sold at Scholastic’s 116,000 school book fairs across the country next year, said regional field sales manager Alan Gilreath. McKinley will receive a $5,000 Scholastic voucher and 100 copies of the book.
“We already knew there were great things happening here and we had really talented kids, but it is nice to have it confirmed on a national level,” Principal Bobbie Kavanaugh said. “It is very exciting.”
The student authors — John Alajijian, Sara Cohen, Julia Guglielmo, Marion Hunter, Henry Keeney, Noel Pennington and Russell Uvas — were lead by parent volunteer Shari Wendt, who stumbled across the competition in November.
A week later, they starting meeting once a week in the school hallway to hammer out ideas and write. The illustrations started in March.
“I am so thrilled for these guys, they worked really, really hard,” Wendt said.
The story, which tells the adventures of a dollar bill working its way through a school fair, a hotdog stand and a laundry machine before landing back in a child’s wallet, originated with one of the seven students.
“It just came to me randomly,” said 8-year-old Russell, adding that he would like to be a professional writer.
Scholastic receives thousands of entries that are put through five levels of review before the winner is selected, Gilreath said. Publishing is going through a digital transformation, he said, and the student author contest is one in which Scholastic can continue supporting the printed word.
“The digital readers — the Kindles, the Nooks — they are a little bit of a change, but it doesn’t change the tactile need of handling and touching [a book] and sitting down on the floor with a loved one,” Gilreath said.
The authors and their mentors are already looking forward to seeing their work in print.
“I have the scans of it at home and I have shown it to friends and family members,” Wendt said. “Every one of them looks at it and goes, ‘Wow, this is really great. If you self-publish, can I have a copy?’ I am going to say, ‘You are going to have to buy one at the book fair now.’”