Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration
by Diana Davis, Walrus Contributor
It was a standing room only crowd which gathered at Left Bank Books downtown on June 2nd to witness the prestigious reading and book signing of Grannie Annie, Volume 7. Students came from near (St. Louis, Ladue, and Wentzville) and far (Colorado, Ohio and Texas) to be on hand for this fantastic event. Twelve of the forty-six writers and illustrators whose work is in Grannie Annie, Volume 7 attended the Grannie Annie Gathering.
Connie McIntyre and Fran Hamilton, Directors of Grannie Annie spoke of the program and introduced the authors and illustrators. They explained that in the Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration, children in the U.S. grades 4 through 8 and home-schooled or international students aged 9 through 14 years of age are offered a unique opportunity to publish family stories that have occurred prior to their births. The benefit of this youth writing project is three-fold: (1) to reinforce family ties, (2) to encounter history in a personal way and (3) to enhance students’ writing skills. For Grannie Annie, Volume 7 there were 314 writing submissions, 46 of which were published. After the publication selections had been made, additional art work was solicited from St. Louis area art students. Grannie Annie received 122 illustration submissions and 13 were published.
Grannie Annie, Volume 7 contains humorous stories, stories told with a sense of awe, and a sad story of a boy who narrowly escaped from a Nazi concentration camp. Some had messages of inspiration: a Jewish woman who stood up to Jessie James; a poor German immigrant who migrated to the United States; a polio patient who grew up to become a talented physician.
In “The First Snow,” Yifu Zhu, wrote a story about his grandfather who first experienced a thunderstorm which dumped snow in the higher elevations in China when he was five years old. The next time that it snowed in that Chinese village was when the grandfather was seventy-three. Can you guess the grandfather’s reactions both times to the snow? Malakai Lewis Hagood did the illustration, a delightful sketch of the Chinese hut nestled in the mountains with big, fat snowflakes floating down.
Illustrator Kody Hopen displayed a two-paneled drawing of a happy child proudly wearing a shirt with two front pockets; then of an unhappy child crying after his mother took away his beloved gift. This interesting drawing illustrated the story of a farm child from 1927 who received the shirt and used its two front pockets to carry eggs from their hen house to the grocery store where he traded them for a pouch of chewing tobacco. When his mother found out about this little escapade, she promptly removed the offending pockets from his shirt!
Tristan Hecht from Denver, Colorado read his story about his grandmother who said “Yes” to six marriage proposals! All the men had been drafted for World War II. She said “yes” to all six because she wanted them to be well-motivated to return safely. How do you think she reacted when they all returned from the front?
Jordan Tyler, a delightful young lady, aptly illustrated a story titled “My Mother, the Bear.” The story tells about a child with an active imagination and the technique he used to ensure that he could enter the outhouse safely. She drew a hillside farmhouse with grain silos behind it and a gravel path leading to the outhouse in the foreground. A child stands beside the outhouse with a picture of a bear in a bubble over his head and one hand reaching into the outhouse. What do you suppose he encountered?
Taylor Eaton, a fourth grader, was the next illustrator to show her work. She had illustrated the story titled, “Trapped on a Ship.” To illustrate the isolation that the U.S. Navy serviceman endured while on training maneuvers, she presented a gigantic ship in the foreground completely surrounded by waves and sun. She had also done the illustration for “My Mom and the Birch-Tree Bridge.” For this story, she had drawn a forest with trees decreasing in size as they receded into the background and had drawn in the foreground some of the dangers that the protagonist might have encountered had she proceeded.
In “My Pakistani Hero,” Aman Rahman told of a grandfather who had encountered a man in a field suffering from hypothermia. He did take action to help the man, but you’ll have to read the story to discover the conclusion.
Johansy Avila was the illustrator for “Bear Invasion,” another two panel view; the first shows two boys smiling and camping in the wilderness while the other panel showed the approach of a bear which arrived with the dawn to destroy their serenity.
Anya Tullman read “A Really Embarrassing Moment” wherein she described her aunt’s overreaction to her cousin’s first football game when he scored a touchdown. Her aunt’s enthusiasm in the moment became part of family legend.
Zoe Brenizer was on-hand to show her illustration for “Funny Money” where 5 and 7-year- old sisters talked their 3-year-old sibling into asking for a bag of candy from the merchant and leaving phony money as payment as she ran away. Zoe chose to draw only the hands of the three-year-old, one clutching a large bag of candy and the other pushing the phony money across the counter.
Alli Hanna, the Ohio author of “Touched by a Saint,” recorded how her mother went on a field trip to the Vatican when Pope John Paul II was on the papal throne. She told of his reaction when her mother called out in Polish, “Kocham Cie!” which means, “I love you!”
And last, Gabrielle Lewis came all the way from Texas to read her story about how her father handled racial inequality while a student at a Texas University in 1990 by getting permission to start a chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, a black fraternity knowing full well that members of the Ku Klux Klan held meetings a mere 20 miles away.
Connie McIntyre and Fran Hamilton, the program directors, want everyone to know that children meeting the age and grade requirements are invited to submit stories for consideration to The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration. For full details and submission forms, please go to www.thegrannieannie.org. The deadline for the next publication opportunity is February 1, 2013. Copies of Grannie Annie, Volume 7 are available either at Left Bank Books or on the Grannie Annie website. I spent a delightful afternoon listening to these fine young writers read their stories. I’ll save the first Saturday in June, 2013 to hear the next batch.