BIDDEFORD – Members of the intermediate and middle school literacy teams organized an assembly for fourththrough sixth-graders to encourage them to take part in this year’s selection for the Maine Student Book Award. The assembly, held Wednesday, Oct. 1 at Biddeford Middle School, featured teachers and staff performing skits while dressed as characters from 41 books nominated for this year’s award.
Students in grades four to eight who read at least three of those books may vote in the spring for the year’s award winner. The 2013 Maine Student Book Award was given to the book “Wonder,” by R. J. Palacio, which received 713 votes from students statewide.
Marianne Collins, literary specialist at the intermediate school, said she doesn’t know how long the school has been holding the annual book award assembly, but intermediate school students look forward to the assembly each year. According to the website for the Maine Student Book Award, the award has been granted each year for decades.
This year, sixth-graders from Biddeford Middle School also joined the intermediate school fourth- and fifth-graders at the assembly.
The first skit featured a teacher playing the role of Tony, a male character in the book “Mountain Dog,” by Margarita Engle. Tony is sent to live with his great uncle, Tió after his mother is sent to jail for training pit bulls to fight. Tony has never met Tió before, but he soon develops a bond with Tió’s search-and-rescue dog, Gabe.
As a dog representing Gabe passed through the middle school auditorium toward the stage, the children oohed and aahed, cheering as he trotted onto the stage to meet Tony and lick his hand.
African drums got the students’ attention in a skit portraying the 9-yearold character Magulu from the book, “Africa is My Home: A Child of the Amistad,” written by Monica Edinger and illustrated by Robert Byrd. The character spoke to the children about her experience being captured by slave traders and placed on the ship Amistad, where slaves took control of the ship in a mutiny.
“(This is a) dramatic tale of how slaves revolted and took over the boat and were later captured,” the Magulu character narrated. “During my time in America, I never forgot about my home.”
A short skit was performed to introduce the book “Gone Fishing” written by Tamera Will Wissinger and illustrated by Matthew Cordell. The book is about a boy named Sam, who is excited to go fishing with his dad, but uncertain if his tagalong sister, Lucy, is going to ruin the fun.
Another hit with the children occurred when a person in a squirrel costume scurried around the stage, eventually to be injured by a vacuum cleaner. “Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures,” by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K. G. Campbell, is a story of how Flora the squirrel gains superhero powers after Flora Belle Buckman performs CPR on her.
Mary Bellavance, a literacy coach at Biddeford Middle School, spoke to the children about the importance of reading and pursuing their own interests.
“You can read books that are interesting to you,” Bellavance told the children.
At the end of the assembly, a group of children held lettered signs spelling M-S-B-A and cheered, “M-S-B-A, go and get a book today!”
For more information about the 41 books that have been nominated for the award this year, or how to participate and vote, go to the Maine Student Book Award website at http://msba.umeedu.maine.edu.
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