Even at a young age, words can make a difference in the world.
“I totally believe in [children’s] wisdom and in their power to make a difference,” said Mary Knight, Scholastic children’s author.
Knight visited Montrose Elementary School Tuesday to speak with fifth graders about her debut novel, “Saving Wonder.” The book was published by Scholastic Press in 2016 and tells the story of a 12-year-old in eastern Kentucky who uses his words to save a mountain in his community. The boy, Curley, lives with his grandfather who raises him after his parents are lost to coal mining accidents.
“His papaw gives him a word a week to learn and live with the idea of getting him out of the holler eventually, even though Curley doesn’t want to leave because he loves his home,” Knight said. “A new coal boss moves to town and threatens to blow the top off their mountain through mountaintop removal. Curley has to figure out the way to use the words that his papaw has been giving him and inspire his community to help him save his home.”
School visits are a part of a children book author’s life, Knight said, if you want it to be. And she does.
“The kids absolutely give me energy and they teach me about my book,” she said. “I just keep learning new insights.”
The students had previously been assigned to write about a time they felt amazement or wonder. As a school visitor, Knight stayed through the afternoon to help with revisions to their stories, giving tips for sensory details, active verbs and points of view.
“One of the things we’re really trying to learn about is empathy and the concern for the environment,” Tiffany Pace, fifth-grade teacher, said. “We really want to try to show the kids that even though they are children, they have the power to change the world. I think that was so impactful when they were reading it.”
Allie Rosen, 11, really enjoyed the book because it wasn’t like anything she had read before.
“I liked how they used words and not violence,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting it to be like that. It shows you that it can take just one person to change the world.”
Pace discovered the book through a Scholastic book fair at the school.
Knight recently learned her book won the 2017 Green Earth Book Award for Children’s Fiction. The national award goes to books that “inspire children to grow a deeper appreciation, respect, and responsibility for their natural environment,” according to the Nature Generation, which gives the awards. “Saving Wonder” is also a winner of a 2016 Parents’ Choice award and a “2017 Notable Book for Social Studies” award, selected by the Children’s Book Council.
“I’m not just doing this to write stories,” Knight said. “I do have a message. My message is that words are powerful and when we take the time to feel empathy for others, even though they may be very different from us, that we can create a better world together.”
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