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Stuck on a Desert Island

beach-84631_1280For our 6th annual library essay contest the topic was “If You Were Stuck on a Desert Island, What Book Would You Bring and Why?” Yes, this is an oft used question but we had as many different answers as sand upon the shore.

With over 100 entries, 14 judges, and a whole lot of fabulously creative writing, the selection process was anything but easy. That said, congratulations go to the follow winners, most of whom read their work at our celebration on May 22nd, from 7-9 pm:

Level 1 (Grade 3-4): Melanie Clark, First Place; Charlotte Martino, Second Place; Partha Jammalamadaka, Third Place; Sysille Eaton, Benoit Gebbie, Devin Lemorticelli, Nicole Martino and Kyra Walsh, Honorable Mentions

Level 2 (Grade 5-8): Alyssa Lahaise, First Place; Joy Xu-Allan, Second Place; Trevor Brown, Third Place; Serena Elias, Jason Le and Haniya Sperling, Honorable Mentions

Level 3 (Grade 9-Adult): Mary Erickson, First Place; Anthony Cavanaugh, Second Place; and Joseph Gallant, Third Place.

Now you might be wondering what books were chosen and why? Of course we had the popular books by J.K. Rowling, Jeff Kinney and Rick Riordan. Still, it was the most creative essays that rose to the top. Take Melanie Clark’s for example. She opened her essay by imagining that her island life began after “something big hits the hull of the boat. The boat starts to sink, you quickly put on a life, vest, grab your book, jump off the boat, and swim to the deserted island.” On the way Clark grabbed her Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban because it was a “page turner” and you don’t want to be bored when you’re hanging out on an island for a while.

For Charlotte Martino El Deafo by Cece Bell was an obvious choice. She thought this book would give her ideas of things to do. “For example I can pretend to be a superhero like Cece, and I can build friends out of sand and water because Cece had a lot of friends in the book.” As Anthony Cavanaugh wrote about The Mark of Athena, it might be helpful to have a Roman or Greek hero in your back pocket. “They must fight to survive using the many powers and skills that they have received from their unearthly parents.” For other participants like Partha Jammalamadaka, it came down to the page count and the sense of humor with Diary of the Wimpy Kid: Double Down. Who wouldn’t want a laugh or two when hanging out by your lonesome on an island?

And speaking of humor, others won the hearts of the judges through their funny ideas. Benoit Gebbie decided after finishing Ready Freddy that he would use some of the pages from the back of the book to make origami creations like “paper shovels, paper boats and paper hats.” While this idea might give a librarian a nightmare or two (ripped books!), one can only read a book so many times. Ultimately Jason Le decided to bring Jedi Academy but he reassured his readers that being stuck on a desert island was “impossible because I’m awesome.” Ha!

Alyssa Lahaise had an out of the box idea. She’d cart along her very own book, aptly named Mr. Book. “Mr. Book would have a durable, black cover so that nothing could destroy him. He would have chapters on building fires, hunting and gathering food, constructing or finding shelter, and calling for help.” All of this would be helpful because as Lahaise claimed,  “Honestly, the first thing I would probably do is freak out.”

The pragmatists also had their say. Devin Lemorticelli brought along the Guiness Book of World Records of 2005. Why not? After all, he’d have lots of time to pour over all those stats. Likewise, Nicole Martino thought her social studies book Harcourt Horizons States and Regions would give her “something to learn every day.” Plus “this book tells you how to make a soddie which is a home that the pioneers made.” With Who Was King Tut? Kyra Walsh explained “what the Egyptians did to survive in the desert” and Sysille Eaton wanted to tote Magic Under the Stars since the main character, Shannon, “loves camping as much as I do.”

According to Joseph Gallant, We Seven was a must. If the Mercury astronauts could endure life in cramped one-man capsules, Gallant could handle life among the palm trees. Of course, no one could go wrong with Trevor Brown’s choice of The Legend of Robinson Crusoe. After all, he had to “build a fort that could withstand weather and animals for about 27 years” before Crusoe was rescued. Now that’s resourceful thinking.

Finally, there were the books selected for inspiration alone. Haniya Sperling suggested The Wizard of Oz since “its many lovable characters will capture the heart of everybody who reads this enjoyable tale.” Serena Elias thought Dolphin Tale was inspiring because “it tells people never give up, because if you give up you will never know what you can achieve.” Likewise Egg and Spoon was a hit with Joy Xu-Allan. The story was “so entrancing that even if it was my tenth time reading it, I wouldn’t be bored.” According to the first place winner, Mary Erickson, Walden by Henry David Thoreau would bring the most solace. As she wrote, “When on a desert island, there is not contact with the rest of the world, so one needs to know how to live simply and co-exist with nature.”

Certainly, our librarians hope that none of our readers are stuck on a desert island for too long this summer but, if you are, you will have some good books to choose from while sitting in your beach chair.

 Nancy Ling is the Outreach Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts.  Read Nancy’s column in the June 8th issue of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.


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