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Students Wax Creative and Show the Write Stuff

June 07, 1990|BRAD HAUGAARD | Haugaard is a regular free-lance contributor.

Forget about Dick and Jane.

In this storybook world, radish-munching rabbits consult psychiatrists, fat mice inhabit a planet with shopping malls made of Swiss cheese, and scary creatures speak through Ouija boards.

And every one of the 274 youthful authors receives a prize.

Elementary and junior high students from 13 school districts displayed their works at the East San Gabriel Valley Reading Council's Young Authors' Conference, held May 22 at the Performing Arts Center at Citrus College in Glendora.

This year's offerings ranged from whimsical fantasy to serious social commentary, with some instructional tomes thrown in for good measure.

There is the psychological drama of Billabee Rabbit, who prefers radishes to carrots. In "The Rabbit Who Ate Radishes" by Alisia Tran, a second-grade pupil at Cullen School in Glendora, Billabee's concerned parents take him to a psychiatrist to help him get over his craving. But Billabee's preference prevails in the end when he turns red after eating one radish too many at a rabbit picnic. His color enables him to scare away a fox with a phobia. (He's afraid of red.)

Rachel Durand, a fifth-grader at Don Julian School in Bassett, took a look at crime and violence in her poem "Gangs."

Bad, dumb

Fighting, hurting, stealing

Graffiti, knives, drugs, names

Killing, ending, dying

Sad, pain


On a lighter note, William Young, a fifth-grader at Evergreen School in Diamond Bar, spun a first-person tale of being abducted by fat mice in UFOs who transport him to a mouse planet where he shops at a mall made of Swiss cheese.

Jennifer Valencia, a third-grade pupil at Dalton School in Azusa, offered tips on building a snowman:

"The first thing you've got to find is a mountain with snow. Then park your car or else your car will run through a house."

In "The Moving Glass," Ann Mijares, an eighth-grader at Torch Middle School in Industry, told a ghostly story involving the supernatural Amy, who speaks through a Ouija board and gets even when people ask her rude questions.

Linda Welch, staff development specialist at the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District's Instructional Services Center, said the annual event, now in its ninth year, is designed to reward and stimulate literary efforts.

"There has to be a reason to write," said Welch, who chaired the conference. "And when a student is honored in front of a thousand people, that's got to be an incentive."

An estimated 1,200 people--young authors and their parents, friends and teachers--jammed the auditorium for the afternoon event. Certificates were awarded to each participant, and about 50 blue ribbons were bestowed for special efforts.

Some students watched in delight as their stories were dramatized by Imagination Machine, a children's theater group based in Orange.

Dawn Brandi Anderson, a fifth-grader at Los Altos Elementary School in Hacienda Heights who offered a poetic appreciation of felines in her illustrated story "Cats in the Mood," said her work was inspired by real life.

"I was thinking of my own cat, and I tried to be as descriptive as I could," she said.

She added that she wants to be a children's author of "realistic fiction" when she grows up. Meanwhile, she is getting plenty of feedback at home.

"My dad, mom and brother look at my work," she said, "and give me encouragement."

Other participants showed less interest in a writing career. Michael D'Elia, a second-grader at Magnolia School in Azusa who wrote and illustrated "What I Saw at the Ocean," said he has other career plans: second baseman for the Angels.

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