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When Local Authors Create

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Kai Duckless-Lowell, pen name Aquilla Duckless-Lowell, with her handmade book.
Kai Duckless-Lowell ponders a question asked of writers everywhere: “How did you come up with the idea for your book?”

The eight year old, eyes framed in oversized Harry Potter glasses, thinks for a minute and then answers, “Well …, I really like Minecraft but it’s way funner playing with friends so I wanted my friends to play.” Kai, pen name Aquilla, co-authored the book with her friend, Ehro Dorman. 

“Minecraft” is a small handmade book with a Minecraft-type illustration decorating the cover. It’s displayed on a special shelf in the Kellogg-Hubbard Library’s Children’s Room along with other works by area kids. A sign at the top of the shelf announces “Local Kids Create.” Kai also has another work in the collection, “How I Made This Book,” which begins, “It started with an idea.”

How it Started

“Local Kids Create” got its start when Mia Rubow, director of the Montpelier school and child-care center, Thickets, contacted Nicole Westbom, Kellogg-Hubbard’s head youth librarian. Rubow wondered if the library would exhibit a book her students, Kai and Ehro, had put together on their own. Westom agreed. Other young library patrons saw “Minecraft” on display and brought in books they had written. Soon Westbom had enough to fill a shelf. The display now features seven books, all constructed by the kids themselves and illustrated with pencils, markers, and crayons. 

When children write stories, they’re boosting creativity and problem solving. Writing can help them to learn more about their own identity, and, as any elementary school teacher can tell you, the more you write, the better you read. The more you read the better you write. 

Why are Kids Inspired to Write?

What is it about Westbom’s exhibit that inspires these kids to write even when it’s not required for school? 

She doesn’t award prizes to her local authors. She gives them only an opportunity to show their work and to know it’s been seen.

“Children enjoy books very naturally and enjoy creating them,” Westbom says. “It’s gratifying on a lot of levels. As soon as the authors come in, they check to see if their book is still there. If they notice that it’s in someone’s hands and being read, there’s a smile.”

Ten-year-old Elena Cannon contributed “Life With Kayla,” a “graphic novel” with a message.

“It’s that you shouldn’t dress to impress,” says Elena, who is working on a new story about a group of animals who get lost in the woods and try to find their way home. 

Two authors in the collection, who clearly have a talent for marketing, decided to add a crown-shaped, “Hot New Thing” label to their book, “Ella’s Performance.” Others, like nine-year-old Chaitra Devarakonda, may keep a lower profile. She wrote “Farm Animals on the Loose” because “I always wanted to live on a farm … My friend Emmy saw the (Local Kids) poster in the library and told me about it.” 

How did she feel when she saw her book on display? “Proud … proud and excited,” Devarakonda says softly. 

All of these books are cataloged just like any other library acquisition, with the name of the author and a photo of the book. Unlike the other books, however, these don’t circulate. 

If there’s a lesson here, it might be that just having your work acknowledged can be inspiring, a fact that online companies have become increasingly aware of. 

Lulu Jr.com, for example, promises that you can “Unleash Your Kids Creativity” by purchasing “a complete kit for writing, illustrating, and publishing their very own hardcover book.” Some parents may want to explore the possibility of having a child’s story commercially bound, however, when asked what kids must have to create a book. Kai has a simpler way of looking at it. “You need an idea, a title, and then a story to share your idea.”

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