Third-Grade Authors Net Grand Prize in Annual Writing Competition

The writing talents of a group of third graders at William McKinley Elementary School in Burbank, Calif., turned out to be right on the money, both literally and figuratively, in Scholastic’s annual Kids Are Authors book-writing competition.

The talented young writers walked away with the grand prize for fiction, authoring and illustrating Two Dollars, One Wallet, a book that traces the adventures of a dollar bill named George as he travels from bank to bank, wallet to wallet, and cash register to cash register, surviving various trials along the way, including a trip through a washing machine and dog bakery.

Here is a funny “in the wallet” conversation between George and a coin named Sacagawea:

“Who turned on the lights?” said George as Mr. Juan Carlos [a character in the book who was inspired by the school’s real life custodian] opened the wallet. George felt something cold and hard touch his fluffy hair. It was a coin!

The Sacagawea coin was shiny, gold and beautiful.

George felt smelly and wrinkled compared to Sacagawea. “You look beat up and crumpled,” said Sacagawea. “But you look familiar.”

“I was the first president!” said George. “But I’ve been around the country a lot. It’s kind of a funny story.”

“I was born in Washington D.C. at the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The next thing I knew, I was at a bank.”

“A little girl got me out of the bank. She traded me for a sprinkled donut.”

“The donut maker spent me on a dance game at the arcade,” said George.

“Then the arcade cashier took me to a dog bakery, where I got wet and slobbery.”

“Being slid into the claw machine at the toy store hurt, but I won a huge pink bunny!”

“Next, I was used to buy some underwear at a dollar store. It was rather embarrassing.”

Sacagawea giggled.

“I visited the zoo where I saw a penny get squished flat. I hope Mr. Lincoln is okay,” said George.

“After that, I was used to buy a raffle ticket at a school carnival.”

“I was given as change when someone bought a hot dog. You see this?” George looked at a stain on his shoulder. “Mustard!”

“I survived the washing machine, although it made me dizzy.”

“So hanging in the sun felt like a vacation,” said George.


So how did this imaginative story evolve?

“One of the students just pulled the title out of thin air, and then the group voted for their favorite,” said Shari Wendt, project coordinator and parent volunteer. “Two Dollars, One Wallet beat out ‘The Adventures of Bat Rabbit and Rob Dog’ because we thought a dollar would be easier to illustrate than a super-hero rabbit.”

From there, the students developed a basic idea…an outline…for the story and spent an hour each week, from last November to the end of February, putting it together.

“Each author would write a sentence in their notebook, and then we would discuss who had the best sentence,” said Wendt. “In a good week, we’d get three sentences done. And that’s how we wrote it. The kids were great. It was amazing how they grew and how much they understood about building a beginning, middle and end for the story. It was really fun.”

In the weeks that followed, the students produced a storyboard (with advice from local Disney story artist, Brian Kesinger) and then created all the illustrations.

The kids also produced an audio version of the book – the first ever by a Kids Are Authors contestant.

“With the help of other parent volunteers, the kids went into the studio and created an audio recording. They wanted to tell the story in their own voices to kindergarteners and other pre-readers,” Wendt said.

Shari has only one regret: She wishes her kids had started the project earlier.

“We really ran out of time. But somehow we managed to put it all together,” she said. “In the end, the kids loved the story and had a feeling of pride and teamwork. When the announcement was made that we’d won, the kids were completely and utterly gobsmacked. You’ve never seen seven more delighted kids in your life. These are the kind of projects that make kids want to come to school.”

Each young author will receive a medal and a framed commemorative certificate during an official award ceremony to be held at their school this fall. The school will receive a $5,000 Scholastic Book Fairs shopping voucher and 100 copies of the published book, which will be sold at Book Fairs in schools nationwide this fall.

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