“You are the hero of your own story.”
That’s what famed children’s author Stephanie Tolan told fifth- and sixth-graders Thursday at Amherst’s Nord Middle School.
“All of the people around you are the main characters in their lives, in their stories. So there are no minor characters,” she said.
Tolan, an Ohio native, penned the novel “Surviving the Applewhites” in 2002. It won the Newbery Honor the following year.
The book tells the story of a troubled 13-year-old boy expelled from every school in Rhode Island. Jake feels everyone expects him to be a bad apple and so resigns himself to that fate — until he makes a friend from an eccentric family who helps turn his life around.
Teacher Jami Sexton said the tale has served as a valuable way to talk with kids about attention-seeking behavior, loneliness, social stigma, and self-exploration.
She said Tolan’s novel teaches the best lesson of all — that “metamorphosis isn’t just for butterflies.”
Tolan visited as part of the Young Authors competition. Out of all schools in Lorain County, Nord students by far write the most books for the event, Sexton said.
Tolan’s stop was sponsored by the Educational Service Center of Lorain County and the National Association of College Bookstores.
She encouraged kids to “take charge of their own stories” and conquer their villains through positive choices. Part of that challenge, said Tolan, is for children to figure out where they fit in.
Since 1978, Tolan has authored 28 books. Her most recent is “Applewhites at Wit’s End,” a sequel to her award-winning work.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times “Stories are not only the words you read in books — they’re also what you’re telling yourself all the time,” Newbery Honor recipient Stephanie Tolan tells Amherst students. Everyone is the hero of their own story, she said.