Dozens of young patrons of the Newark Free Library are now published authors thanks to a literary magazine produced by the library.
This year’s edition of PAGES: A Literary Magazine for Kids, by Kids was unveiled in a ceremony Feb. 25.
“This is our second volume of PAGES, and you all made it happen,” Pat Birchenall, manager of the library, told the children. “We hope that you’ll continue to be inspired to draw and write as you get older, and we thank your parents and families for bringing you to the library.”
PAGES was started last year with a grant from the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit named after a well-known children’s author.
“We had so much fun doing it last year that we decided to do it again,” Birchenall said. “We had such wonderful feedback when we contacted kids to say, ‘Your essay, or your artwork, or your writing is going to be in the magazine.’ We feel like people really appreciate the opportunity for their children to be involved in something like this. It’s not a contest; it’s an opportunity for them to create something and then see it in print.”
Children ages 4 through 12 were invited to submit short stories, essays, poems, jokes, comics, drawings, collages or other kinds of artwork for the magazine. The library held weekly workshops to help the kids create their pages.
Dasia Jones, 11, said she enjoys drawing and was excited to be included in PAGES.
She entered a drawing that she described as an “anime,” featuring a female figure.
“It was an art project that we had to enter,” she said.
Elisabeth Washington, 9, wrote a story about a chocolate candy store’s air conditioner malfunctioning and the consequential melting of the chocolate. She was also published in last year’s edition of PAGES, when she wrote a poem about different types of fruit.
“I really like candy, and I like writing about candy,” she said.
Benjamin Washington, 7, wrote a poem about leaves. He spoke to his inspiration, saying that his favorite season is fall — as well as spring and summer, upon further reflection — and he really likes leaves.
“I like the colors, and how big they are,” he said. “I like when it has different colors on one leaf mixed together. They’re big, and they fall from trees.”
At the Feb. 25 unveiling, the kids heard from David Teague, a Wilmington-based children’s author who also teaches literature at the University of Delaware.
“Other people may dream of seeing their names on the back of a football jersey or on a billboard advertising plastic surgery, but David has always dreamed about seeing his name on the spine of a book,” Youth Services Librarian Lisa Beamer said.
Teague, dressed in a T-shirt depicting a scene from the “Harold and the Purple Crayon” book, confirmed this, telling the children that he had dreamed of being a published author since a young age.
“I always wanted to be a writer,” Teague said. “I always felt like that would be the accomplishment of a lifetime.”
Before reading two books — “Franklin’s Big Dreams,” written by Teague himself, and “Draw Me a Star,” by Eric Carle — Teague gave the children some advice based on his own path to becoming an author.
“I tried to write my first book when I was in the first grade,” Teague said. “It took me a long time to get my first story published. You guys are way ahead. You’re already published.”
Teague went on to read “Franklin’s Big Dreams,” complete with entertaining voices for each of the characters. He showed the last page of his book and described how he decided to remove the text after seeing the completed illustrations.
“That’s a good lesson: the less you say, the better,” Teague said.
Teague ended his talk with another piece of advice for the young authors.
“I just want to say, you’ve heard these two books about dreaming and writing, so just do it,” Teague said. “You guys are well on your way. If you read – which I know you do, because you’re in the library – then you can change the world.”