Imagine That!

From swamp fairies to fire engines, peanut butter volcanoes and cousins caught in a cotton candy whirlpool, we were immersed in the infinite imagination of children as judges for the PBS Kids Writers Contest at UNC TV.

Entries ranged from hand written on dotted lined paper to computer printed; intricate illustrations, from    stick figures to watercolor wonders jumping off the pages. Spiral bound, stapled, some simply stuffed in the envelope, these masterful memoirs were mesmerizing.

The typical themes prevailed; people helping people and animals, sibling squabbles and pranks resulting in closer relationships, and amazing adventures to faraway lands, resulting in a greater appreciation for home.

I especially enjoyed the tooth fairy’s trip to the beach.  She left a lot more money than my tooth fairy ever did, along with one of her wings (by accident, of course).  The illustrations brought this one to life, as did the story of the sister who tricked her baby brother into planting pennies to grow a money tree.  Imagine Evil Candy Girl, pumping sugar into the mouths of children, easily defeated by Veggie Boy and Fruit Girl.

There was a pink pig who did anything and everything to be brown but learned in the end that you can’t be something you’re not, and that being different is a good thing.  And the purple princess thought her peace had been stolen, until she realized that it resides safely in her heart.

Their fantasies were fascinating and humorous; from detailed to delusional, these kids took this contest seriously.  I could imagine them working diligently on their prose prior to packing them carefully into the envelope.

What a treat it was to read these treasured tales;  some more structured than others, each story offered life lessons learned, captured in vivid color.  I was amazed and impressed with the imaginations and illustrations of these young authors and artists.

I stepped up a grade level this year to try something different.  It never dawned on me that I would be reading entries from some of the same kindergarteners whose work I had judged last year.  We shared stories across grade levels since many were just too amusing to miss.

Picking the winners wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t unanimous (at first).  It all boiled down to a creative combination of story structure, colorful illustrations and a clear moral or message.

Each entry was original, engaging and imaginative, but one quote captured the essence of these children’s timeless wisdom:

‘It is always good to stick together with friends and family to fight away problems and share the joy’

As a wordsmith, I appreciate the evolution of ideas, the rhythm and cadence of words and the power of semantic sensitivity.    Our stories and word choice work wonders in our capacity to connect with and relate to others.  How well are you using yours and what are you learning?



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