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William Allen White Children’s Book Winners Announced

May 14, 2018

Being the new kid in school is never easy, and both winning titles in the 2018 William Allen White (WAW) Children’s Book Awards explore the unique obstacles that two new kids face. “Fish in a Tree” by Lynda Mullaly Hunt was selected by voters in Grades 3 through 5 and “Took” by Mary Downing Hahn was selected by voters in Grades 6 through 8.

The 66th annual celebration of the WAW Children’s Book Awards program, directed by Emporia State University and supported in part by the Trusler Foundation, will be October 6, 2018. That day, schoolchildren from across the state of Kansas travel to Emporia for special events including lock-ins, author readings and book signings, along with a parade before the awards ceremony itself. The public is invited. Tickets to the awards ceremony cost $5; all other events are free.

Student representatives present the winning authors with their White Award medals during the ceremony that concludes the special day.

“We are excited to welcome two incredible authors along with students, teachers and parents back to Emporia in October this year,” said Michelle Hammond, dean of University Libraries and Archives. “Allowing this very special opportunity for children to meet with an author of a book they enjoyed further brings that story to life. That moment when the author explains what they really meant in your favorite portion of the book, up close and personal, is when the magic of reading begins.”

In “Fish in a Tree,” Hunt tells the story of Ally, a young girl who lands in a new school and hides her inability to read by creating clever and disruptive distractions. She is afraid to ask for help, however her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, she feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. This emotionally-charged, uplifting novel will speak to anyone who’s ever thought there was something wrong with them because they didn’t fit in.

Author Hunt said she tends to write about things she would like to know, that she longs to understand but doesn’t. She also says there is “always a wish underneath it all.” After attending UConn and getting two degrees in education, she went on to become a teacher. This is where she gained her love of writing. After leaving teaching to be a stay-at-home mom, she decided to join a writer’s club, and that is where it all started. Hunt is known for both “Fish and a Tree” and “One for the Murphys.”

“Took”, the winner in the Grades 6 through 8 category, is about a spooky mystery in West Virginia. When seventh-grader Daniel and his seven-year-old sister, Erica, move from suburban Connecticut to an abandoned farmhouse in rural West Virginia, they learn of a “conjure woman” and her resurrected razorback hog, Bloody Bones. As the tale goes, she abducts a girl every 50 years. After Daniel’s younger sister and her look-alike doll become more withdrawn and disappear into the woods one day, he knows something is terribly wrong. Did the witch strike? He begins to wonder if Erica has been “took.”

Hahn, a former children’s librarian, has been writing children’s books for over thirty years. Her books have sold more than two million copies and have won several awards. She is best known for her ghost stories and mysteries. She describes herself as “an avid reader, traveler and all-around arts lover.” She lives in Maryland, where she was born and raised, and has two grown daughters.

The William Allen White Children’s Book Award program began after the famed journalist’s death on Jan. 29, 1944 — Kansas Day. Emporia State University launched the William Allen White Children’s Book Award, which was guided by Ruth Garver Gagliardo, who was hired by White to write for The Emporia Gazette.

Passionate about books, Gagliardo wrote a regular column that commented on books, music and art, and often concentrated on books for children. She was one of the first to review children’s books for a newspaper, which gave parents, teachers and librarians insights to quality books for children.

Gagliardo’s column led to “The Children’s Bookshelf,” a book review column in the Kansas Teacher magazine. She also started the Children’s Traveling Book Exhibit, which helped introduce children all over Kansas to good books for 23 years.



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