Ten-year-old wins annual prize for handmade book
All ten-year-olds need a boost of encouragement, especially those who go on to change the world, believes one fourth grader from Longwood.
Shelley Polanco, who will enter the fifth grade at P.S. 333 in the fall, won this year’s Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition, for writing and binding her first novel, “Detour to 1938,” in which she advises a nine-year-old Martin Luther King to cast aside his dreams of becoming a jazz musician, and instead engage in political activism
“He was nine, like me, and he was scared–his house had gotten bombed and people called him bad names. I had to tell him everything he’s done, and why he should do it,” said Polanco. Like most nine-year-olds, King “wasn’t easily convinced,” she summarized.
The award is given annually by educational group, the Ezra Keats Foundation, to third-grade-through high school students from city schools, who write, design and create their own book. It is named for Ezra Jack Keats, whose 1962 book “The Snowy Day” became a classic for its innovative use of collage and multimedia art formats.
Like the red-suited protagonist in Keats’ book, Polanco dons a red sweater in her novel, and motivates the young Martin Luther King Jr. to become a champion of civil rights by “showing him that everybody’s going to remember everything he’s done.”
Making the book took months, but armed with a glue gun and a camera, Polanco was determined to commemorate the civil rights leader in a “fun” way,” while emulating the “simple but dramatic” style of “The Snowy Day.” .
P.S. 333 ended the school year with a play adapted from her book. Along with $500 prize money, and a television feature with a CBS news anchor, Polanco received a plaque from Bronx Community Board 2 in June.
“Everybody says we always talk about the negative stuff here, but this is something positive for our community,” said board member Robert Crespo.
But the book that has been showcased along with other winning entries at the Brooklyn Central Library won’t be in the Polanco home for long. Arrangements are being made for “Detour to 1938” to be exhibited in the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington D.C. soon.
“I feel really proud of myself, that my book is going to be in a famous exhibit that everyone visits–and everything I did is working out now,” said Polanco.
“Shelley believes things come out of her sacrifice,” said Polanco’s mother, Isabel Hernandez, who said she knew her daughter was going to win the award as soon as she saw the completed book.