CNY Reads Writing Contest Winners
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was the inspiration for three sophomores from Nottingham High School who are the winners in this year’s CNY Reads Writing Contest.
Conner Gerbino (1st place), Naomi Rutagarama (2nd place) and Ryan McNeil (3rd place) read the book as part of Jenniffer Benedetto’s 10th grade English class. Once they finished the novel, which tells the story of LIesel, a young girl forced in to foster care in late 1930s Germany, they had to write a 1,000-word piece using writing prompts based upon the style of Zusak.
Zusak uses Death as the narrator for his novel but the students said they still found the book uplifting.
“Throughout all the hardships in the book there were still little lights of happiness,’’ Naomi Rutagarama said.
The winners received gift cards from either Barnes and Noble or Amazon and they also have the opportunity to participate in a question and answer session with Zusak via Skype.
Rutagarama said she plans to ask Zusak how he came up with the idea to use Death as the narrator of the novel.
Conner Gerbino wants to know what Zusak would tell readers who are not happy with the ending of the book.
“If he were a reader who was not happy with the ending, how might he change it?’’, Gerbino said.
Ryan McNeil wants to know how Zusak was able to write the book, given its difficult subject matter. “Was the topic overwhelming at times? Did it get to him?’’
Jenniffer Benedetto said all of the students who read the novel were excited to enter the writing contest.
“I presented them the opportunity and they just ran with it,’’ she said. “I was thrilled with the work the students turned in.’’
The contest, sponsored by CNY Reads One Book, was open to high school students from throughout the area. The writers had to use the same point of view and writing style as Zusak and they were given first and last sentences as “bookends’’ for their essays.
Benedetto said the novel was one of five that were assigned to literature circle groups in her classes.
“They started their literature circles the second week of February. I assigned books by looking at the whole student,’’ she said. Entering the contest was not an option for the students who read The Book Thief.
Benedetto said she was proud of the work her students did and could not believe all three winners came from her classes.
“All of the students who entered are winners though,’’ Benedetto said.