Local sixth grader wins Roald Dahl contest

Sparta girl pens 'imaginormous' essay

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  • Lucy Franks and her brother Daniel with Chloe Dahl, Roald Dahl's granddaughter Photos courtesy of the Franks family

  • Lucy Franks being presented her "Golden Ticket" by Chloe Dahl, Roald Dahl's granddaughter.The ticket was signed by HRH Camilla Parker-Bowles (the wife of Prince Charles who is a trustee of the Roald Dahl foundation)

  • Lucy, Richard (her father) and Daniel Franks in front of the British Museum

  • Lucy and her brother Daniel with the star of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Broadway after the show

  • Lucy and author Adam Gidwtiz

  • All the Roald Dahl winners in New York City

By Rose Sgarlato

- Sixth grader Lucy Franks was one of five students out of 20,000 entered to win a national writing contest last spring. Called Roald Dahl’s Imaginormous Contest, Lucy and her family enjoyed a special celebration courtesy of the contest sponsor.

British author Roald Dahl, now deceased, may be most famous for his story “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” that morphed into the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and more recently a Broadway play. He also wrote Fantastic Mr. Fox and James and the Giant Peach.

It all started last spring in Lucy’s STEP class at Helen Morgan with fifth grade teacher Morgan Bleakley who saw the contest as an opportunity for her students to apply what they have learned in a challenging 100-word format.

“The students chose their own story idea from five different genres chosen by Penguin Young Readers, the contest sponsor The challenge was to write a 100 word story idea in the spirit of Dahl's books, the more imaginative the better,” said Bleakley.

The objective of the contest was to have the winners’ ideas “ magically transformed” into a book, movie, play or other. But given the high number of 20,000 participating students ages 5-12, Bleakley and her writers were not over zealous.

Then in August the good news came.

“When my Mom told me in July, I was surprised because I knew the contest ended in April. I had put it out of my mind,” said Lucy.

In two class periods, Lucy created the winning piece.

“It’s about a 12-year-old girl who goes missing every night,” she said.

There was no point of inspiration, said Lucy, she just used her creative writing skills and the character and word guidelines from the publisher.

The winners and their families received an all expenses paid trip to New York City and London. Interestingly enough Lucy’s father is British , so it would not be her first visit to the UK, but having the opportunity to meet and collaborate with popular children’s author Adam Gidwitz was a special treat. Gidwitz books include: “The Empire Strikes Back: So You Want to be a Jedi?” and “A Tale Dark and Grimm.”

“I went to New York to meet with Adam Gidwitz to develop my story into a short story. The session was meant for me to learn ideas about creating my own book,” said Lucy. “He was nice and it was fun.”

Lucy’s mother Sarah Franks remarked about the author’s comments: “Adam Gidwtiz was unbelievably complimentary of Sparta teachers. He was very impressed with what Lucy had learned through her class.”

As for Bleakley, Lucy’s teacher, she will receive a $500 classroom learning library and gift packages from other sponsor Post-It. More importantly she is proud of her star student.

"Lucy is a very insightful, creative thinker. She puts so much effort into making her writing the best it can be. I couldn't have been happier when an associate at Penguin Young Readers informed me that Lucy was one of the winning writers,” Bleakley said. “Lucy is destined for great things, I am honored to be able to watch her grow as an author."

And although London was more than familiar to Lucy, she still enjoyed being a tourist and treated like royalty.

“We went to some really cool places like the London Eye,” she said.

Her mother Sarah added that the company “did a phenomenal job of making kids feel like winners.”

As for her future, Lucy is being a kid and taking one day at a time: “I don’t know if I want to be a writer in the future-I haven’t really thought about it. The trip was fun , and I am glad I got to go.”

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