“If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it,” said Toni Morrison, the first black woman to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature.
Shelley Polanco agrees.
A fourth grader at the Museum School on Reverand James A. Polite Avenue in Longwood, she is one of this year’s citywide winners of the Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition for grades 3 to 12.
Ezra Jack Keats, an author of children’s literature who used multiculturism and urban settings in his writing, started the foundation to help humanity.
As the main character in her own book, Polanco helps steer a young Martin Luther King Jr. to his destiny.
Polanco said her story takes place when she is researching King for a school project.
“The research is so boring that I fall asleep, and in my dream I am on a bus continuing my research when I hear the bus driver say something about 1958 and I realize I am the only minority in the front of the bus,” Polanco said. “After the bus driver tells me to go to the back of the bus and I refuse, I am thrown off the bus where I meet Martin Luther King.”
She convinces him to continue his path by explaining to him all of the doors he has opened for minorities in this country.
Polanco said she was inspired to write her book by Keats’ ability to take everyday things and make them extraordinary by writing about them.
“Winning this award was an honor,” she said. “Ezra Jack Keats was a brilliant author, and I wanted to show kids that history doesn’t have to be boring.”
The 26-year-old contest was started to promote reading literacy, art, and to instill a love of learning in children.
Executive director of the Ezra Keats Foundation Deborah Pope said the program has very few restrictions to limit the creativity of the children participating.
“All we require is that the books are made solely by the children, We never know what the books are going to be made of,” Pope said.
A medal awards ceremony for the four citywide and 22 boroughwide winners will be held May 18 at the main Brooklyn Library. The citywide winners also will receive $500 and 22 boroughwide winners $100.