Here are the winning essays from the 2008 Boys’ Life reading contest.
8 YEARS OLD AND YOUNGER
First Place: Zachary Giovannelli, Woodbridge, Va. (“Capital Mysteries, Who Broke Lincoln’s Thumb?” by Ron Roy)
During the summer of 2008, I read so many books! My absolute favorites, by Ron Roy, were a series called the Capital Mysteries. “Who Broke Lincoln’s Thumb” was a book that had excitement and mystery — two things that I most enjoy!
KC and Marshall, two best friends in Washington, D.C., decide to visit the Lincoln Memorial for a school project. While looking at the statue with other tourists, they discover that the thumb on the left hand of the Lincoln statue has been broken off and is missing. They find clues and solve the mystery just in time for a Presidential party at the Lincoln Memorial to honor the man who sculpted the statue of Lincoln, Daniel Chester French
I live just about 30 minutes from Washington, D.C., and was inspired to go and see the real monument after reading this book! Just like KC and Marshall, I got to solve a mystery while I was there! I had decided to earn my Junior Ranger badge at the National Mall while I was visiting, and one of the things I had to do was to find several items in or around the Lincoln Monument to complete a ranger booklet. I found a list of states, a flag, a plaque for Alaska and Hawaii, a Reunion mural and I had to count all the columns in the Memorial and find out what they stood for. It was like I was a character right out of the book, solving my own mystery and learning about our history all at the same time! I found all the clues not just to the Lincoln Memorial but to all of the monuments that day, including the Washington Monument, Constitution Gardens, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial and eight other smaller memorials on the mall. It was intriguing exciting and exhausting!
But, by the end of the day, I was sworn in by a park ranger for all of my outstanding work. I told the national park ranger about reading “Who Broke Lincoln’s Thumb” and how it got me interested in learning about the monuments! She was happy! And, I will always have my National Mall badge and remember what inspired me to earn it!
Second Place: Trace Cyr, Presque Isle, Me. (“Magic Tree House No. 6: Afternoon on the Amazon” by Mary Pope Osborne)
The Magic Tree House books are about Jack and Annie and how they find a tree house in Frogcreek Woods. This isn’t a normal tree house, though. It’s a magical tree house. The tree house is full of books, and when they pick one, they point to the picture and say they want to go there, and the tree house takes them there. Every time they go somewhere, they’re on a mission to find an item to help Morgan.
In this book, Jack and Annie visit the Amazon. Annie doesn’t want to go at first cause she is afraid of bugs. When the tree house lands, Annie is the first one out, but Jack stops her because they landed in the forest canopy, one of the three layers of the rain forest, which in about 150 feet above ground. When they climb down the ladder, they don’t see any animals at first, but when Jack checks the book he finds out that the animals blend in with the forest. This is called camouflage. The first animals they see are army ants. As they are running from the army ants they end up going down the Amazon River in a canoe. This is when they see piranhas, crocodiles, and snakes. They also meet a monkey that ends up helping them find the item they are looking for, in this case a mango. They make it back to the tree house and find the book about Frogcreek, Pa., and go back home.
I like the Magic Tree House books because they are exciting and you learn about something in every book. Every time Jack and Annie go somewhere, you learn about that time or place they’re in. These books are exciting, cause Jack and Annie are about my age and they have all these adventures and it makes me think I can, too!
Third Place: Brandon DePaola, Wake Forest, N.C. (“The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein)
My name is Brandon DePaola. I am 6 years old. I am a Tiger Cub Scout in Pack 500. The best book ever is “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. This book is about a boy who loved a tree. The tree loved the boy, too. They were happy. The tree gave the boy everything he needed. They were happy. I love camping, sleeping outside, playing in the wood. I love trees. This book is great because it was the first big book I read alone.
9 AND 10 YEARS OLD
First Place: Jonathan Gu, San Jose, Calif. (“Diary of a Wimpy Kid” by Jeff Kinney)
One day I went to Borders with my mom and saw “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” Its cover looked very cool, and the pages inside also included comics. WOW! I persuaded my mom to buy it. She thought for a while, and said yes. I was so excited! When I got it I read it immediately. While I was reading, it interested me a lot. When my mom told me to stop, I still wanted to read it, because it is so related to my real life between my younger sister and me, also the people around me.
The main characters are Greg (Gregory), Rodrick, Manny, Greg’s parents, and Rowley. Everybody besides Rowley is in the same family. Manny is the youngest boy, next to Greg, and Rodrick is their oldest brother. Rowley is Greg’s best friend, and although they are best friends, Rowley is a very funny guy and often embarrasses Greg without even noticing. Greg and Rodrick are enemies, and Manny is the reporter; he always tells on the person that did something wrong—just like my sister.
Greg’s dad likes to build things and is serious. Greg’s mom is not as serious but pretty smart and active. They are very stressed out since the boys always make trouble—just like me.
Rodrick gets bad grades and is not good at typing, so he often asks his dad to type homework for him. Rodrick writes lots of wrong facts, and his dad is a perfection-requiring person, so while he is typing, he always rewrites for Rodrick. Later on, Rodrick often comes back with an A and acts like he did it himself—I wish I had a dad like that, it would be a miracle!
This book is very special. Things that are in the book might happen to you or have already happened to you. It is humorous and not scary at all, also it has positively NO inappropriate things for kids. It is like a comic combined with a chapter book turned into a diary of Greg, and every page has a funny picture on it. You just never want to stop reading it. You can count on me!
“Diary of a Wimpy Kid” inspires me a lot. I am sometimes like Greg, trying to seek luck to avoid doing homework. It is proved not helpful to take risks. I should always do my homework. Also, it makes me want to start my own diary. I want to track my schedule and my feelings. This is a very interesting book; it even made me laugh out loud while I was reading it. It really is the best book I read this year. I bet you will love it too!
Second Place: Arjun Lakhanpal, Birmingham, Ala. (“Kickoff!” by Tiki Barber and Ronde Barber)
The best book I read this year is “Kickoff” by Tiki and Ronde Barber. This book is about the childhood of NFL players Tiki and Ronde. They are twins and have been together in school until the seventh grade. Then their mother decides to put them in separate classes. They have a hard time adjusting to this new arrangement, but their hard work and determination helps them get through. It showed me teamwork and motivated me to make the most of a situation. I think they worked hard separately because they knew if they did well they could try out for football. After tryouts, they are shocked to find that they are third string. Then their mother reminds them that teamwork will help them succeed. When they play the hardest team in the league, they both get in the game. When the other team scores a touchdown on Tiki’s plan, Ronde wins the game for them with a 96-yard touchdown run. Again, this showed me how the two brothers made the best of the situation they were put in. They could have refused to play third string like their friend Jason, but they hung in there, and their talent came through. My love for football and seeing the brothers bravely dealing with the tough tackles at school make this the best book ever.
Third Place: Tyler Tate, Roseville, Calif. (“Swordbird” by Nancy Yi Fan)
As a kid, did you ever want to write your own book and have it published? I found a great book this year titled “Swordbird” by Nancy Yi Fan. She was 12 years old when she wrote the book. I selected this book to read because a kid wrote it and it was about birds. I like all animal stories, especially ones that have fighting in them.
The story begins when the cardinals and blue jays go to war. They each think the other is responsible for stealing their eggs. On the other side of the forest, the evil owl lord, Turnatt, was building a fort using slave bird labor. He and his army of evil crows were the ones who were actually stealing both the cardinals’ and blue jays’ eggs and eating the eggs. When one of the slave birds escapes, he finds one of the clan members and tells them what is really happening. The cardinals and blue jays make peace and set out on a quest to find Swordbird, the legendary bird that can stop evil. In the end, Swordbird brings peace throughout the land.
This was my favorite book because it was exciting, adventurous and had a good lesson. The lesson was that we should communicate with each other and not resort to violence first. The war occurred because the cardinals and blue jays jumped to conclusions instead of talking to each other and finding out the facts. In the end, their suffering could only be relieved by working together.
11 YEARS OLD AND OLDER
First Place: Luis Gabriel Gonzalez Lourido, Arecibo, Puerto Rico (“The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
Hello, my name is Luis Gabriel Gonzalez Lourido and I am 12 years old and I belong to Troop 407 at Arecibo, Puerto Rico. I am developing good reading skills thanks to my mom. She loves to read and write. The best book that we already have read is called “The Little Prince” by Antoine Saint-Exupery. I have enjoyed this book because it really helped me realize that no matter your age, the import and relevant things come from our hearts. This charming and interesting story is simple, but is not really a children’s story. It is the story of a grown-up who forgot what is truly important. He was a writer and French aviator that served as a pilot, during World War II. As a writer, he looked at danger and adventures from a kid viewpoint…just like you and me. In his book Saint-Exupery tells us about meeting a young extraterrestrial prince (appearing as human) that he found in the Sahara Desert. He meets this aviator who crash-landed in the desert. During the time he was trying to fix his ship, they became friends. The prince was about 8 years old, had blond hair and dressed like a soldier. He is asking questions of the pilot and tells the pilot about his own life on his small planet. From that point on, the pilot and the little prince become inseparable. The prince explains to the aviator about his planet. The asteroid called B612 has three volcanoes and a rose. He leaves to see what the rest of the universe is like and visits six other asteroids inhabited by adults who are foolish in their own way. The story follows with encounters with a diversity of these “grown-ups,” and in every encounter we see the little prince confront the limitations that those people have or they have imposed on themselves to get away from the important things in life. When the story ends, the little prince has chosen to leave earth and return to his planet. He does so with the help of a poisonous snake, the same snake he met earlier in his travels. He allows himself to be bitten and prepares to leave his body. The pilot is very sad and tries to save the little prince, but he fails. This is when the pilot realizes that when you love something or someone, the very important thing is that it once existed and that’s good enough to be happy.
Second Place: Geoffrey Tseng, Livingston, N.J. (“Brisingr” by Christopher Paolini)
“Brisingr” by Christopher Paolini is a great book and the sequel to “Eragon” and “Eldest.” It continues the adventures of Eragon and his dragon Saphira as they battle for the freedom of the land of Alagaesia against the evil King Galbatorix.
This time, Eragon gets way more powerful. He gets a new blade and names it “Brinsingr,” which means fire in the ancient language. His new sword was forged by the elfin blacksmith Rhunon. Eragon also gets help from 12 elfin spell casters. They’re experienced and lend Eragon a lot of help. They even help him defeat his evil half-brother, Murtagh. I like the character Eragon even more than before because now he actually has a chance to defeat Galbatorix. No offense, but in “Eldest,” Eragon was really weak.
I love the way the author Christopher Paolini creates an elfin mentor called Oromis. He’s a wise old teacher, just like Yoda in “Star Wars” or Gandalf in “The Lord of the Rings.” All three teachers have to teach a young person to live in a harsh world. Oromis reveals to Eragon some secrets about his parents that not even Eragon’s uncle knows. He also teaches Eragon about a dragon’s heart and Blaedr, Oromis’s dragon, gives his heart to Eragon. This way, if Glaedr somehow gets killed in battle, he can transfer his spirit into his heart.
During a battle a group of rebels called the Varden are attacked by an army of enemy soldiers who feel no pain! They could be dying and still be laughing! It really creeps me out how these soldiers can have all their arms and legs chopped off, and still crack up like it’s all a joke. It’s really weird.
The end of the book is very tragic because Oromis is slain by Galbatorix. The wise old teacher finally dies. Glaedr almost dies, too, but fortunately, Glaedr already gave his heart to Eragon so he can just transfer his mind into his heart.
This book teaches me that all good things come at a price. Eragon battles for the freedom of the people, but during the struggle, many good people die such as Oromis and dwarves.
I predict that in the next book in the Inheritance Cycle, the third and last dragon egg will hatch. The dragon will have to choose sides. If it joins Eragon, this dragon will mate with Saphira, the last female dragon, and they will create more dragons. I can’t wait for the fourth book of the Inheritance Cycle!
Third Place: David Wojtkowski, Williamsville, N.Y. (“There’s an Owl in the Shower” by Jean Craighead George)
The best book I read this year would have to be “There’s an Owl in the Shower” written by Jean Craighead George. It is a quick easy-to-read book, about a boy named Borden and his family.
Borden’s dad is a logger who is out of work due to an environmentalist group that wants to save the spotted owl. Apparently too many trees have been cut down and it has caused problems for the spotted owls to mate and hunt for food. Borden finds and brings home a male owlet that fell out of its nest and names him Bardy. Borden and his family become attached to Bardy, especially Borden’s dad, Leon.
In time, the owl grows and likes living with Borden and his family. He even loves to take showers and watch nighttime TV. After living with the owl, Leon learns to appreciate the owl and goes out of his way for it. In the story, you watch the characters like Borden and his dad, Leon, grow and change. At the end, the owl is released into the wild and both Borden and Leon are transformed into being better people.
So many people in our world today are talking about saving animals and the environment. This book opened my eyes to how people and the environment work hand in hand. It talks about how many living things are affected by changes in nature. The forest, for example is a place where many creatures and plants live, but it also provides people with jobs to make a living. It is a balance to keep the environment safe and all living things happy. It is a great book to read!