Here are the winning essays from the 2011 Boys’ Life reading contest.
8 AND UNDER CATEGORY
1st place: Samuel Chernoff, LaPlata, Md.
I read “All the Way to the Ocean” by Joel Harper. In the book, a kid named James threw a piece of trash in the storm drain. His friend Isaac explained to James that storm drains go all the way to the ocean and affect marine life. Animals in the ocean can get stuck in our garbage. Fish and marine birds can mistake cigarettes for food and get sick. Sea turtles can mistake plastic bags for jellyfish. If sea turtles eat the plastic bags they get sick as well.
Pollution affects people, too. When trash goes from the storm drain to the ocean, the water can get too dirty to swim in. The drinking water can get polluted, too. To help stop pollution Isaac and James asked their teacher if they could have a school yard cleanup. That is one way to stop pollution.
Last year as a Tiger Scout, I participated in my pack’s river cleanup. It was lots of fun. I found a lot of trash in the woods near the beach. In nature class as Scout camp, I walked around camp stations to pick up trash. The director even gave us a special bead. When I camp or go to a park, I always Leave No Trace and leave no trash there. You should never pollute!
2nd place: Wesley McGee, Cumming, Ga.
The best book I’ve read this year is “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” I like the whole series, but I really like the third book titled “The Last Straw,” Jeff Kinney is the author.
The main character, who is also my favorite character, is Greg, Greg has an older brother Roderick who picks on him a lot. Greg also has a little brother Manny who never gets into trouble, even when he really deserves it.
In the third book, Greg decides to join Boy Scouts. There are two troops, Troop 24 and Troop 133. Troop 24 works on community service projects, while Troop 133 is always having pool parties and playing games. Greg joined Troop 133. The troop had a father-son camping trip, which turned out bad. First, Greg got sick and his dad signed up for driving so he still had to go. Second, Greg’s dad ended up in the emergency room because two boys decided to misbehave.
I like my Cub Scout pack because we play games and do community service projects. Also, when we go camping our Scouts are very well behaved. I think it’s great that Greg joined Boy Scouts, but he should have joined Troop 24.
I like all the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books because Greg reminds me of myself. Greg plays soccer, loves video games, and is a Scout just like me. I can’t wait to start reading the new book!
3rd place: Oliver Kon, Raleigh, N.C.
The best book I read this year was titled, “Down to the Sean with Mr. Magee,” written by Chris Van Dusen. The story is about a man named Mr. Magee and his dog named Dee. The first thing you will notice is that the story is written in rhyme.
One fine morning, Mr. Magee and Dee decide to pack a picnic lunch and have an outing on their motorboat. They meet a pod of whales, 50 at least. One whale, though, had eaten its share and was bored. They it spotted the boat, but not Magee and Dee inside of it. It bumped the motorboat a little, and then the whale used its blowhole and sprayed the boat so high that it landed in a tree on a small island.
Dee the dog knew just what to do. They waited and waited and waited. Then, all of the whales that they saw earlier began to gather around the island where the tree and motorboat were. They made a giant splash with their tails. It was so big that it covered the island, raced up the tree, and dislodged the motorboat. Mr. Magee, Dee and their motorboat flew into the air and landed safely in the water. In their excitement, they forgot to eat their picnic. So they took it home and ate it for dinner.
My family and I enjoyed reading this story. The rhyming makes it easy to remember. It has encouraged our family to practice creating poetry. Now, I have created my own poetry journal. After the first few tries, it becomes easier, and it is fun.
9- & 10-YEAR-OLD CATEGORY
1st place: Joseph Dalola, Cary, N.C.
The best book I read this year is “The Swiss Family Robinson” by Johann David Wyss. With many interest-holding stories and lots of unique scouting tips, this books will live on forever.
Long ago, the Robinson family sailed from Switzerland to Australia. They had three boys. In the middle of their voyage they were shipwrecked on a desert island. On the island they had to figure out how to survive before time ran out.
“The Swiss Family Robinson” teaches you lots of skills. It educates you about how to make natural rubber. It also instructs you on how to harvest pearls, build rafts, and create bamboo pipelines—all useful for Scouts stranded on a desert islant!
“The Swiss Family Robinson” also promotes teamwork. For the Robinsons, surviving on a desert island required a lot of teamwork. Hunting food, making a home, and exploring the land while still having fun took lots more. Teamwork is a very important quality in Scouts, too. One of my favorite things about Scouting is working as a team with my fellow Scouts to accomplish our goals like selling popcorn to raise money for our pack.
And last of all, “The Swiss Family Robinson” is an exciting book. In my opinion, a book can’t get more thrilling than fighting brutal pirates, enormous boa constrictors and wild apes. The excitement also got a boost because they fought the pirates with coconut bombs, the boa constrictor with a knife, and the apes with tree sap.
“The Swiss Family Robinson” is one big campout extravaganza. When you go on your next campout, leave the technology at home and use some good old-fashioned ingenuity like the kind demonstrated in this great book. “The Swiss Family Robinson” is an important thing on your packing list because it will provide all the exciting and unique adventure ideas that you will need.
2nd place: Gaurav Pandey, Euless, Texas
In the summer of 2011, I read a lot of interesting stories of different genres including adventure, fiction, non-fiction, mystery, science, humor and biography. But the book I liked the most was “Henry and Beezus” by Beverly Cleary.
This is the story of a boy named Henry, who was raising money to buy an expensive bike because his parents could not buy it for him. Henry, along with his friend Beezus, comes up with various creative ideas to raise money. First he finds lots of bubble gum packages thrown out buy a man running out of business and sells them. Then he tries to sell newspapers and magazines. He also wins tickets in the mall. When people start giggling, he finds out they are for a beauty salon. So he sells them to girls to get more money for his bike. It was hard to raise so much money, but Henry did not give up because he was very determined to get his own bike and he finally did. This shows that no matter how difficult a task is, hard work and determination always pay at the end. I was also touched by Henry’s compassion and kindness toward his dog Ribsy. In the mall, Henry asked a guy selling dog food if he can have some for Ribsy, the guy said if you eat some dog food I’ll give you the whole can for free. So Henry ate some dog food. I think that was very kind of him.
Not only is this story funny and interesting, it also teaches things that we learn in Cub Scouts like compassion, honesty, patience, hard work and perseverance. This is definitely my favorite book this year. I think you should read it, too. Just like me, you can get it from your local library. I hope you will like this book as much as I did. Happy reading!!!
3rd place: Hunter Lederman, Wayne, N.J.
The best book I read this year is the “Dork Diaries” by Rachel Renee Russell. Although this book about a girl in middle school and I am still in elementary school, I could really relate to the main character, Nikki. Nikki is just a normal eighth grader trying to fit in and make new friends. Like everyone, including me, she just wants to fit in and be popular and have everyone like her. She thinks that if she can buy expensive clothing and an expensive cell phone this will make her popular and the most popular girl at school will like her. But she learns that life is the best when she is just herself. This is the greatest lesson anyone can learn.
I really liked this book because I am going to middle school next year and I wonder all the time how am I going to make new friends. Also, all my friends already in 4th grade have cell phones, but not me, so I think maybe I need one just to fit in. The character Nikki reminds me a lot of me, and she even struggles in math, just like I do sometimes. Everyone wants to be liked and not laughed at, but I see that people try to change their behavior just to be liked. Just be yourself and you will find friends all by yourself!! I did.
11-YEARS-OLD AND UP
1st place: Noah Riley, Naperville, Ill.
“20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne is my favorite book. I have read this book at least seven times. I always seem to reread it every few months.
The story is set in the 1860s and is about three men who are trying to find a sea monster that they think is responsible for sinking ships. When the sea monster attacks their ship, one of the men falls overboard and the other two follow. They end up on the Nautilus and finds out it’s a submarine run by Captain Nemo.
Captain Nemo built the submarine to escape the harsh wars of the surface. His sub was built in secret and is very advanced for the time. Captain Nemo has lost his family and acts like a madman at times. He believes the surface dwellers are responsible for his loss and with his submarine he rams ships to cause them to sink. He believes he is getting rid of the scourge of mankind.
I like the book because it is full of adventure and mystery. Even though it was written so long ago, I find it easy to read. I can sympathize with Captain Nemo and his desire to live in the sea where there is such beauty. I am a scuba diver, and I would love to live in a ship where I could see beautiful reefs and the different fish all the time. But Captain Nemo acts out of rage and kills people by sinking ships. He could have been a hero and help save mankind from itself but instead chose to be a villain.
I think that the moral of the story is to not let your rage consume you. Captain Nemo built a ship that was ahead of its time, one that he could have lived in and been happy in. But he chose to use his ship for revenge. His revenge did not seem to make him feel better. In the end Captain Nemo felt bad about his actions and sailed into a maelstrom. He may (or may not) have gone down with his ship.
2nd place: Chasen Turk, Pearblossom, Calif.
One of the best books I’ve read this year is Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart.” It tells the story of Okonkwo, a native African of the Ibo tribe, and chronicles the major events of his life. Additionally, it offers deep insight into the Ibo culture and way of life, giving the reader a greater understanding and sense of wonder in regard to a culture that is very different from what we are familiar with here at home.
I had the great privilege of conversing with a native of the same region of Africa in which the story is told in a class discussion. It is a wonderful thing to become more familiar with a culture by talking with someone who has come from that background. The insight she gave into her cultural background was invaluable in understanding the traditions and cultural customs in the story, and changed my entire outlook on foreign cultures. I think that this reflects how Boy Scouts across the globe should learn as much as they can about foreign cultures, because as Boy Scouts, we interact with many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. To understand and show appreciate for these unique traits is vital to reaching out to those ethnic groups.
The story itself follows Okonkwo, a native African of the Ibo tribe: a highly respected but deeply flawed individual. As the reader follows the major events of his life, his flaws become more and more apparent: anger, intolerance of failure, and most of all, pride. Okonkwo constantly strives to rise above all the other of his tribe in status and power, but in his quest to do so, is cast into exile as the result of a horrible accident. After seven years in exile, he returns to his homeland and becomes involved in a cultural conflict in his home village, in which the white missionaries attempt to convert the natives to their religion. The conflict reaches its peak when Okonkwo kills a white missionary and, fearing their retribution, is driven to take his own life.
As a tragedy, it is painful to read, but it can also be helpful in understanding personal issues similar to what Okonkwo was dealing with. The author’s main idea is this: pride, anger and selfishness lead to undesirable conclusions, even if you achieve the success you were striving for. In other words, you can gain the whole world and all of its treasures, but it you don’t hold on to what you know is right, you will lose your soul and everything that makes you unique. We must reflect this principle in how we live our lives by the Scout Oath and Law, making sure to value what is right more than fame, money or status.
3rd place: Sean D. Boddy, Belllingham, Mass.
“The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom is about the Ten Boom family living in the Netherlands during the Holocaust. The Ten Boom family was helping and lodging Jewish people in their home. They chose to help the Jewish people because they knew it was the right thing to do. In order to feed the Jews in hiding, people used ration cards to get food. The Ten Booms needed and managed to acquire ration cards to feed the Jewish people they were hiding.
Later, the Ten Booms were tricked by a Nazi posing as a Jew in need of help. The Ten Booms were going to help this person, however, they figured out that he was a spy. Their home was searched and the ration cards were found, but luckily the Jews were not. The entire family was taken off to a prison camp where they were split up. The family was separated by male and female. Some were sent to a different camp. All but one family member eventually died. She returned home.
In reflecting on this book, I believe it is a good example of the physical and mental challenges faced by people in the Nazi war camps. I also believe that is showed that some people are strong enough to stand up for what they believe. The Ten Boom family made a conscious decision to help the Jews. They broke a law they did not consider appropriate. Their decision to help another person resulted in their loss of life. The Ten Boom family is a good example of social responsibility.