Here are the winning essays from the 2006 Boys’ Life reading contest.
8 YEARS OLD AND YOUNGER
First Place: Josh Curry, 7, Covington, Wash. (“The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein)
I have read “The Giving Tree” many times but read it again this summer while working on the BSA family badge. It is a really cool book because it teaches that you can give things to others your whole life even if you think you have nothing.
In the book, the tree gives to the boy in lots of ways during its life. It gives the boy a place to play and have fun when the boy is young. It gives the boy apples to sell for money to have fun when he is a little older. It gives the boy branches for a house for his family and its trunk for a boat to relax and sail away. It gives its stump for a quiet place to sit when the boy is old. The boy and the tree are very happy together.
I think my mom and dad are a lot like the tree in the book and are always giving to me. My family has lots of fun together. My mom and dad teach me right from wrong, manners, always to do my best and have fun. They give me money for things I need and let me earn more money by doing chores. They listen to me, love me and teach me how to help others. No matter how old I get, my mom and dad will always love me, and we will be happy together.
Second Place: Alexander Dixon, 8, Shelby Township, Mich. (“Face-Off” by Matt Christopher)
It’s about a boy named Scott who played hockey for the Golden Bears team. One day at the ice pond, he was racing and a boy who played hockey asked him if he wanted to join his team. He said yes and asked his parents if he could play. Then he started to practice with the team.
At the first hockey game, Scott almost got hit by the puck. He was afraid of getting hit with the puck and he raised his stick too high. The referee sent him to the penalty box for high sticking. He felt sad and embarrassed in front of his teammates. One of the boys made fun of him for being puck shy.
The next day the coach took him to the ice pond to practice. The coach taught him to catch the puck and drop it so he wouldn’t get hit. This helped him feel confident when he was playing hockey, and he wasn’t afraid of getting hit by the puck anymore. His teammates stopped making fun of him.
I like this book because I like to play hockey. I learned that it isn’t nice to make fun of people just because they’re afraid or not good at something. I also learned you could practice to improve your skills so you can play better.
Third Place: Paul Gasparola, 8, Londonderry, N.H. (Biography about George Carver” by Eve Moore)
George lived at a time when black people weren’t treated equally or fairly. He lost both of his parents when he was a baby. George really wanted to learn and to go school. It was very hard, but he did it.
One of George’s teachers told him that even though he loved art he should study plants and farming to help his people. George Washington Carver became a excellent scientist, artist and teacher. George taught people how to grow better crops and to use them better like peanuts and sweet potatoes. George Washington Carver was a great man who helped people learn to live better lives. I look up to him for working so hard, not only to make his life better, but because he helped more people than we will ever know.
9 AND 10 YEARS OLD
First Place: Austin McCoy, 10, Folsom, Calif. (“The Boy Mechanic” by Popular Mechanics Company)
This book was published in 1952. The book has a yellow hard cover and is old-looking. My dad got this book from his mom when she worked at the Grandin Library in Clinton, N.J.
My dad owned this book when he was a kid. This book tells you two things; how things work and how to build them.
On page 50, I learned about a Jet-Ice Boat. It has directions on how it works and how to build it. My dad built this boat when he was my age. He sailed it on his neighbor’s pond when the ice was thick enough. On page 25, I learned how to build a snow house. It shows you how to build the roof, the sides, and the bottom. On page 79, it shows you how to build a Bicycle Boat. It has a blueprint on how to build the pontoons. Then it shows how to build the bicycle part.
I would like to build the crossbow because my dad and I really want one. It also looks like fun. I would like to also build the Aero-Driven Ice Boat. This is powered by a 100-horsepower engine. I would really like to build the carbon dioxide fire extinguisher because it can put out a fire by putting water in it then put carbon dioxide into it to force out water.
I love this book because I like to build, and this book has so many things to build and try. It is also very educational. And most of all, I love this book because me and my dad like to look at it together. I really like this book!
Second Place: Robby Ryan, 9, Fayetteville, Ga. (“The Rising Waters” by J.P. Peterson)
The setting of this book begins as Luke and Tracy are expecting an unruly juvenile, Kevin, to arrive at a well-established animal shelter to do community service work. This was assigned to him due to the fact that Kevin has been making bad choices in life. The main reason he was doing community service was that he had recently stolen a care.
Kevin doesn’t have a normal family life. He is a hard-up kid. His time has been divided between both parents. Kevin’s parents spent very little time with him. His parents have given up on him. Kevin is depressed about life and he doesn’t have good family support. However, Luke in the book is an outstanding young man and a volunteer worker at the animal shelter. Luke is assigned to become Kevin’s mentor.
The main characters begin their journey through the book together. They encounter many challenging situations. They work together to care for animals in the shelter and helped many aging people to rescue personal items during the rising waters of the flood. The three main characters were also engaged in rescuing stranded animals from the flood. The most intense for Kevin and Tracy was when they worked together to rescue Luke from horrible kidnappers that were looting the flooded water.
Reading this book has helped me to understand the importance of being a great role model for others. It also has helped me to understand the importance of being open and accepting of others who are less fortunate than me. Working with other people or friends in spite of differences will help me to become a better citizen.
After reading this book, I have been chosen to become a peer mediator at my school for incoming new students in my school. I hope I can be as effective as Luke was in this book.
Third Place: James Voisard, 10, Winter Haven, Fla. (“Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery)
This summer I read “Anne of Green Gables.” It was the best book I read this year. She was hilarious because she talked too much and used super big words.
Anne is a red-headed orphan who was adopted by a brother and sister named Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert because of a mistake. Matthew needed a boy to help him on the farm, but when he went to go pick up his “boy,” he found Anne anxiously waiting for him. Since Matthew was so kind he took Anne home with him.
One the drive home Matthew found himself enjoying Anne’s chattering and decided he wanted to keep her. This was unusual for Matthew and Anne because Matthew was shy and most little girls didn’t like him, but Anne did. Now the trouble would be convincing Marilla. Marilla, like Matthew, was soon enchanted by Anne’s talking spell and agreed that she could stay. So Anne, the orphan, because Anne of Green Gables.
Five years later, Anne won the most prestigious scholarship award at Queen’s College. This was a very happy time in Anne’s life, but soon sadness came. Her beloved Matthew died. Marilla also thought she was going to have to sell Green Gables, because she was going blind and would have no help.
The Cub Scout promise says I promise to do my best, to do my duty and to help other people. Anne did her best and won the scholarship. She also felt it was her duty to save Green Gables and help Marilla, so she gave up her scholarship out of love for Marilla and Green Gables. She would have made a great Cub Scout “if” she was a boy!
11 YEARS OLD AND OLDER
First Place: Sam Spiess, 17, Wichita, Kan. (“Night” by Elie Wiesel)
“Night” was by far the best book I read this year. It showed the terrible effects of inhumanity on the individual. Elie Wiesel was a Jewish boy from Romania, who had to watch his family die at the hands of Nazism. Night also shows how a person can easily lose faith in times of hardship.
In “Night,” Elie and his family are taken to Auschwitz, where they eventually die. There, Elie witnesses death, sickness, and pure evil firsthand. He sees children forced to dump their parents’ bodies into furnaces, people shot on the spot, and his elders (including his rabbis) lose their Jewish faith. Dehumanized by the evil he sees everyday, Elie completely loses his faith in God. He cannot understand how a “merciful God” would punish his faithful followers. Elie even watches his father die.
Night was my favorite book because it was such a personal testament of faith. Although Elie Wiesel actually lost his faith, I became stronger in mine. I realized that faith in God is what usually gets us through such disturbing struggles. I also discovered the depths of bigotry and evil in modern society. Night is more vivid than a history textbook. One can truly see the terrors caused by Hitler and his SS. It is impossible to read Night without being changed, whether for the better or the worse.
Second Place: Alice Kao, 16, Fremont, Calif. (“Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser)
For the first-time author, Eric Schlosser does an amazing job in his non-fiction book, “Fast Food Nation,” tracing the origins and the short- and long-term effects of fast food in America. Reading this has broadened my knowledge on the fast-food industry and made me realize the profound effects of fast food.
Everyone has probably eaten some form of fast food in his or her lifetime and often, consumers really do not think about how their food came to be. They just peel back the wrappers and dig in. Schlosser investigates the processes in the production of fries and hamburger patties—and the results are not what one would expect. Just reading what happens in the cattle slaughterhouses disgusted me. Slaughterhouse conditions are terrible and the sanitation level is too low, so some of the processed meat is rotten or full of debris. Also, Schlosser meets the people whose lives are tied to the fast food industry: from the cattle farmers to the illegal immigrants who work in the slaughterhouses to the fast food employees. Life is difficult because the industry demands so much and provides so little, as most earn barely enough to survive and they have to put up with the harsh physical demands. When I ate fast food before, I never thought about the sacrifices people made so I can have my $1.69 burger.
Another interesting part of the book was Schlosser’s discussion of the politics involved. The major agribusinesses have many lobbyists that work against the good of the public. When Congress tries to pass a food-safety law or restrictions on the fast-food industry, it seems like business always triumphs. It annoyed me that the government cannot provide adequate consumer protection because businesses just do not care about the public’s well-being but [only about] the prices of their stock and quarterly earnings.
Fast food has also other effects, such as: creating a more obese America, hurting independent farmers, Americanizing foreign countries, becoming the first to target the children consumer group, and uniting Americans under a common experience. Not all of fast food’s influences are negative but surely enough. I will definitely think twice before buying any fast food in the future.
Third Place: Miles Mooneyham, 17, Pomona, Calif. (“Hunger of Memory” by Richard Rodriguez)
Over the summer, I read a book entitled “Hunger of Memory,” by Richard Rodriguez. The book is an autobiography detailing Mr. Rodriguez’s life from a young child to his mid-30’s. Throughout the novel, I was reminded of many advantages I have in life that I take for granted.
Mr. Rodriguez was born the son of two Mexican-American immigrants. Growing up in Sacramento, Calif., he knew no English as a child, yet was forced to go to English speaking schools. Through hard work and dedication, he learned English. Word by word, and rule by rule, he came to master one of the world’s most difficult languages.
Sadly, as he became more interested in literature and the language of America, he grew more distant from his family members. They seemed not to have the same desire for education that Richard did. Yet he struggled through the trials and tribulations, eventually becoming fluent on Shakespeare, Aristotle, and Dickinson. He eventually concluded his university studies in the lonely halls of the British Museum, reading texts of books he borrowed from libraries as a small child.
After receiving all of this education, Mr. Rodriguez was offered jobs at Stanford, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, among others. However, he chose to work in a small college in Iowa.
This book taught me many things, most of which I did not expect to learn. The journey of Mr. Rodriguez revealed to me that anything is possible. I did not expect someone with such humble beginnings could possible achieve such outstanding things. What was even more surprising than the success of Richard’s education is his decision to teach in a small rural school. Although the choice was unexpected, it makes sense in hindsight. Mr. Rodriguez chose such a job because he hopes to inspire more people to be like him, to master the things that seem most difficult. I believe that we could all learn a thing or two from this scholar.