Long Beach’s youngest library patrons were asked to answer an essay question this summer: “What is your favorite character from a book, and why?”
In response, a record-breaking 136 readers — ranging from age 6 to 18 — participated in the third annual Summer Reading Essay Contest, sponsored by the Friends of the Long Beach Public Library’s Helen Fuller Cultural Carrousel Committee.
A panel of judges picked the winning essays from an outstanding selection of competitors who wrote about characters from today’s most popular books, such as “Harry Potter” and “The Hunger Games,” as well as classics such as “Nancy Drew,” “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “Matilda.”
Winners were announced last weekend in five age categories. Those who finished among the top three in each age group were awarded gift cards good at local bookstores.
Essays by the first-place finishers are available to read below.
Those with top honors in the age 14-18 group were: Caleb Marsh, 15, with a first place essay about Louis Zamperini, from the book “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand; Alicia Casey, 17, won second place for her writing about Boo Radley from “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee; and Naomi Villescas, 14, placed third for her essay on Scarlett O’Hara from Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind.”
In the 12-13 age group: 12-year-old Natalie Canalis placed first and wrote about the title character in “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman; second-place went to Exly Lundahl, 13, and her favorite character, Dally Winston from “The Outsiders,” by S. E. Hinton; and Taylor Thompson, 12, placed third for writing about Katniss Everdeen in Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games.”
In the 10-11 age group: 10-year-old Emily Lopez placed first for her essay about Hermione Granger from the “Harry Potter” series by J. K. Rowling; Hana Word, 11, earned second for her writing about Brian Robeson in “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen; and third-place finisher 10-year-old Chloe Schmidt’s favorite character was Reynard Muldoon from Trenton Lee Stewart’s “The Mysterious Benedict Society.”
In the 8-9 age group: 9-year-old Samantha E. Oropeza won first place for her essay about Alexis from “The Cupcake Diaries” by Coco Simon; 9-year-old Lucie Dodge placed second for writing about “Matilda” by Roald Dahl; and 9-year-old Hazel Zernich earned third for his essay on Gerta from Jennifer A. Nielsen’s “A Night Divided.”
In the youngest group, those ages 6-7: first place went to Elizabeth Marquez, 6, for her essay about Junie B. Jones from the series by Barbara Park; 7-year-old Lina Viado placed second for her words about Fancy Nancy from the series by Jane O’Connor; and 7-year-old Caroline Kozelka won third for her writing about the title character in “The Pigeon Needs a Bath” by Mo Willems.
The Summer Reading Essay Contest is sponsored by the Friends of the Long Beach Public Library’s Helen Fuller Cultural Carrousel Committee, which is celebrating its 30th year of providing quality book-related programs for children.