Tag Archives: Reading contest

Boys’ Life Fiction: ‘The Ballad of Runny Nose’


Written by Mark Henry | Illustrations by AG Ford

Not counting the normal, Oklahoma stuff from his dad’s side of the family, 15-year-old Jimmy Dugan had 11 names. Most of them were pretty weird, but the name his Eskimo grandfather gave him looked as if it might even get him killed.

A gray cloud of ice-fog surrounded his face with every panting breath. Deep, bone-numbing cold seeped through the thick fur of Jimmy’s parka. His feet, layered in heavy wool socks and sealskin mukluks, felt like frozen blocks of meat.

His body was one big ice-cream headache.

Under low clouds and a weak arctic sun, seven huskies shivered in harness, bushy tails curled around their feet. Eyes, rimmed in tiny ice crystals, squinted against the bitter air. The thermometer hanging on the handle of Jimmy’s dogsled read 37 below.

Spit snapped before it hit the ground in such conditions. Trees exploded as sap turned to ice. The dogs’ feet cracked and bled. Jimmy had heard stories of men who’d cut off their own frostbitten fingers just to survive.

He stopped the team on a frozen pond in the middle of an endless white plain. There was no wind, and the moisture from his breath and the panting dogs pooled into a foggy soup at his feet.

Jimmy kicked at the swirling cloud with his mukluk, then slumped against the sled, clenching his teeth in a shiver that shook his entire body. A dozen other figures, some on snow machines, some with dogs, moved like gray dots up and down the river — all searching, just like him.


It was March, the season Yup’ik Eskimo call “When-Seals-Are-Born.” Back in Tulsa, Jimmy’s friends would be mowing their lawns. But in Alaska, on the ice-covered tundra of the Yukon Delta, winter wouldn’t release her frozen grip until May. He wished his dad’s deployment in Iraq would end so his mother would take them back home — back to civilization.

He was only a kid from Oklahoma, no matter what his grandfather said.

In Yup’ik tradition, almost every-one gave him a different name. To his grandmother he was Kakeggluk, translated as “Runny Nose,” because he was allergic to just about every-thing on the planet. Auntie Vera called him “Dear Little Husband,” because when Jimmy was a baby, he’d supposedly looked like his big-eared great uncle, who’d died shortly before he was born.

All the names were dorky, but the one his grandfather gave him caused the most trouble: Nukalpiaq. It sounded like he was clearing his throat when he said it. Nukalpiaq — “Great Hunter.”

What a joke. Jimmy had never hunted anything but a few ducks —and he wasn’t very successful at that.

Then two boys went missing while they were out checking blackfish traps set below the river ice. With most of the men from the village off hunting seals, the boys’ mother had come to beg Nukalpiaq for help.

“Surely,” she’d explained through her tears, “the Great Hunter’s grand-father had seen something special in him. …” Her boys were only 6 and 8 years old. Surely someone with such a name could help her find her little ones before they froze to death.

Jimmy had been up and down the river six times already without finding a single track. He buried his face in his mittens, wracking his brain for what his grandfather would do.

“Tie my teachings in your boot-laces so you don’t lose ’em,” the old man always said when he finished a lesson. He’d passed away in the darkest time of winter — the season Yup’ik call “Worst-of-the-Moon.”

“Grandpa,” Jimmy muttered, standing up with a groan. “I should’ve tied your words on better. Those boys are out here somewhere —maybe dead already. … I’m freezing and I don’t know what to do. What were you thinking? People expect too much from a boy named Great Hunter.”

“If you don’t know which way to go,” Jimmy’s grandfather had taught him, “say a little prayer, then trust your dogs. If they turn, don’t stop ’em. They’ll take you where you need to go. Tie these words in your bootlaces. …”

The huskies tugged at their harnesses, eager to get moving in the cold. Chinook, the lead dog, threw back his great, gray head and gave a mournful howl.

Jimmy’s grandfather once said that long ago, animals and man had lived together and spoken the same language. Then a great divide opened up, separating man from the others. As the canyon grew wider, dog
jumped across at the last possible instant, choosing to stay with his friend, man. Even now, dog’s sorrow-ful howl was his way of talking to his wild brothers across that great divide.

“If you don’t know which way to go,” Jimmy’s grandfather had taught him, “say a little prayer, then trust your dogs. If they turn, don’t stop ’em. They’ll take you where you need to go. Tie these words in your bootlaces. …”

“OK, Chinook,” Jimmy hollered. “You asked for it, boy. Trust, it is. Hike! Hike!” (People called “mush” to their dogs only in the movies.)
The huskies nearly tugged the sled out of Jimmy’s hands. Subzero air seared his lungs as he trotted to jump aboard the runners. There was no sound but the jingle of the dogs’ traces and the hiss of the sled over ice.

“The great Runny Nose,” Jimmy snorted under the huge wolverine ruff of his parka hood. “Off to save the day.”

The dogs suddenly veered right, toward the middle of a smaller river that fed into the mighty Yukon. Chinook stopped in his tracks, looking back over broad shoulders. He sniffed the air. Frosty steam from his panting drifted in the still air.

The sun, lower now, peeked between gray clouds and the frozen expanse of the Bering Sea. In the long shadows ahead of the dogs, Jimmy saw two impressions in the snow. Faint tracks followed the trail of a snowshoe hare, barely visible in the rock-hard ridges of white. Ten yards farther, they vanished at the edge of a gaping hole he’d missed on his earlier searches.

His blood turned to ice. The river was deep here and never froze all the way to the bottom. If the boys had fallen through —

“Chinook! Haw! Haw!” Jimmy cried.

The powerful lead dog obeyed, dragging his teammates and the sled to the left. He stopped dead-even with the treacherous break.

Chinook whined at the jagged hole. Slowly, the dog tugged the sled toward it. The ice hummed and popped like gnashing teeth beneath their combined weight.

“Chinook, no!” Jimmy stomped on the brake. “Stupid dog, you’ll kill us all —”

“Helloooo!” A muffled cry rose from the ice.

Jimmy threw back his heavy fur hood despite the bitter cold. “Hello?”

“M-m-ma-mamaaaa!” a second voice sobbed.

Quickly, Jimmy unsnapped the gang line and anchored the dogs to the ice with the claw brake. Then, flat on his belly in the basket of the empty sled, he inched forward. The long runners distributed his weight, and he moved to the edge of the hole.

Two boys gazed up from the blue-gray shadows three feet below. An early freeze had flash-frozen the river. The water level beneath the ice had dropped before it had frozen solid again, leaving a cave-like tunnel between two sheets of ice. The boys had found a weak spot and fallen through the top layer.

Frozen tears streaked dirty faces, framed by fur parka hoods. Pudgy cheeks almost closed their eyes as they grinned up at Jimmy.

“Runny Nose!” The 6-year-old’s mouth gaped in surprise. “You have come to save us?”

“Your mother’s worried about you.” Jimmy peered down between the wooden slats of his sled. He was suddenly much warmer than before. “You were smart to stay where you broke through.”

“Grandfather says to stay put if we are lost,” the older boy said. “We tied his words in our bootlaces so we wouldn’t forget them.”

Jimmy shot a quick glance at his lead dog, which gave him a wide-mouthed yawn. “We all have some things tied to our bootlaces today. …”

The boys shivered badly as Jimmy hauled them up from beneath the ice. He gave them hot chocolate from his thermos and some oatmeal cookies he had kept under his parka so they wouldn’t freeze solid.

As Jimmy stepped on the sled runners, the younger boy turned from his nest of blankets, his lip covered in a frothy, hot-chocolate mustache. “Can we go home, Runny Nose?”

His older brother gave him a stiff elbow to the ribs. “You call him Nukalpiaq. Runny Nose isn’t polite.”

“Either one.” Jimmy smiled, urging the dogs toward the village. “Either one suits me fine.”

2013 Boys’ Life reading contest winners

Here are the winning essays from the 2013 Boys’ Life reading contest.


1st place: Nathaniel Carlson, Bloomfield Township, Mich.

timespiesI really liked Time Spies: Bones in the Badlands by Candice Ransom. In the Time Spies series, the main characters Sophie, Maddie and Alex travel through time using a magic spyglass and help someone. In the book Bones in the Badlands, they help famous archaeologist Walt Granger (a real person!) figure out who is trying to steal his fossils.

The three friends thought the bad guy was one of Walt’s helpers. In order to catch the bad guy, Sophie had the great idea of setting a trap. The three friends said they found an Allosaurus skull hoping to lure the bad guy, but he didn’t fall for it. Instead it was the stationmaster, Otto, who fell in the trap. I was shocked, but you find out later that Otto was with another museum trying to get its hands on the fossils. The awesome part about the trap was that the three friends actually did find a baby dinosaur bone.

My favorite parts of the book were the fact that the main characters have a magic spyglass, that there was a surprise ending and that it included some real history. The idea of a magic spyglass to travel through time was cool. If I had a magic spyglass, I would want to go where important baseball events happened. I would check out Justin Verlander’s no-hitter, Armando Galarraga’s near-perfect game and when Ty Cobb got into a fight with a fan. I would also like to see the very first Cub Scout pinewood derby race.

The book was even more interesting to me because I got to visit the Badlands in South Dakota this summer. On my visit to the Badlands, I saw dinosaur bones in the museum and attended a program led by a park ranger where we got to look for fossils. With the history included in this book, I got an even better sense of what the first discoveries in the Badlands must have been like. Overall, Time Spies: Bones in the Badlands was a wonderful book that I would recommend.

2nd Place: Timothy Swenka, Manchester, Iowa

I read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. What I like best about the book is the tree that is giving her stuff to the boy. She gives him her things because she loves him. The boy loves the tree and knows if he needs help the tree will be there for him. And even though the boy is gone for the long groups of time, he always comes back to the tree because they love each other.

I think this book tells boys and girls that they need to love each other and be together for each other and keep helping each other even if you can’t be together all the time.

The tree is good to the boy. She gives the boy her stuff so he can get the things he wants. When he was little he could climb on her and eat her apples and make her happy.

As he gets older she gives him her apples to sell so he can have money so he would be happy. She gives him her branches so he can make a home so he would be happy. She gives him her trunk so he can make a boat and sail away so he would be happy.

And when he is old she has nothing but her stump, but that is all he needs because he is old and needs to sit a lot, so now he can sit and just be with her and make her happy.

So we all need to help make each other happy because we should love each other.

3rd Place: Dorian Griffith-Shy, Snellville, Ga.

The best book I read this year was Up on the Housetop. I like this book because it has pictures and words to a song that makes me happy. The song makes me happy because it has nice words and is about Christmas. I love Christmas, and I like Christmas songs. I like Christmas because it is Jesus’ birthday.

The story talks about Santa Claus. Santa Claus put toys in the stockings of Nell and Will in the story. Will got a ball, a whip and a whistle in his stocking. He also got a hammer and tacks. Nell got a doll that can cry, laugh and shut her eyes. Nell also got a teddy bear. I learned that Santa comes at night and puts toys in your stocking. I never knew that he puts toys in stockings!

My favorite part of the book is when Santa jumps down the chimney. If he comes through the door then people will hear noises. It is much better to come through the chimney so nobody will wake up. Santa can put the toys quietly in the stocking.

Up on the Housetop is a good book and a good song. I would recommend it to my friends so that they can learn the words and see the pictures. I think Santa and the elves would make good Cub Scouts because they are also nice to other people.


1st place: Nick Habakus, Middletown, N.J.

phantomIn The Phantom Tollbooth, Milo went on an amazing adventure that changed his life. He used to be a sad and depressed kid. He didn’t enjoy anything, not even friends or toys! I would not want to be friends with Milo at the beginning of the book. It is hard to be friends with somebody who never wants to play.

I love adventure because I like to explore and I like surprises. Milo’s adventures were really great. He went to magical places, like Dictionopolis, where they eat words. He met strange people, animals and insects that could do amazing things, like Alec Bings, who grows down not up; Tock the Watchdog who makes time fly; and Chroma the Conductor who makes music appear in colors. The king called Milo an ordinary boy, but his life with the tollbooth was not ordinary. Sometimes I feel ordinary and I wish I could go on an adventure like Milo’s.

After his adventures, Milo completely changed. He became a more positive boy. He learned that trying new things is fun. I also know how it feels to be bored. I am bored when I am doing things that aren’t interesting to me. This is why I like books about magic, monsters and special powers. I like the way I feel when I’m reading a good book, and I don’t want to put it down.

Learning new things is boring when I have to do it someone else’s way. When I study math, I don’t like doing lots of equations and taking tests. But I do like math. In school, we played games to learn about estimating. In camp, we played a math game to earn the last piece of cake. In Pokémon battling, we have to do math calculations to figure out who will survive. These are fun ways to learn math.

Like Milo, I always want to find ways to learn. I would love to be in Milo’s adventure. I would keep the Mathematician in my pocket so he could teach me how to do any math problem. I would become friends with the Spelling Bee so I could learn how to spell words I don’t know. I would learn new stories from the Witch about things like Rhyme and Reason, and use them in them in my book reports. Kids can have fun and still learn lots of things.

2nd place: Joseph Nelson, Fullerton, Calif.

The best book I read this year is A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne. It is an exciting tale of mystery, danger and survival skills. It is the story of an uncle and nephew who find a parchment in an old book that tells them how to get to the center of the Earth. They have to go to Iceland and hire a guide who helps them enter an old volcano to find the passage to begin their exciting journey. Right away that reminds me of Cub Scouts. We have a Cubmaster who acts as our guide and teaches us important lessons during hikes and camping trips.

This story taught me a lot of survival skills that are important to Scouting. First, the characters in the story learned how to find water underground. In the story, they heard rushing water and their guide taught them how to get to it. Since they didn’t have shovels, they used a crowbar to break through the wall and get to the water. The story also informs the reader of important tools needed for climbing and descending mountains. For example, they brought with them a pickaxe, a silk ladder, rope, a crowbar, a thermometer, a compass, lanterns and rifles. The Scouting motto is Be Prepared, so like Scouts, they were prepared for the journey. The story teaches the importance of rationing food when you have a limited supply. In the book, the characters were down to one drop of water and a scrap of food per meal.

In the end, the characters use TNT to blast loose rocks out of a hole, and the water rushes in and pushes them into a volcano. The water rises rapidly and they are blasted out. They were very lucky to not get hurt and get out alive. They go back home and show people evidence of life in the center of the Earth. They tell of their adventures and become very famous. I recommend this book to anyone who likes to read about mystery, adventure, surprises and happy endings. It is a great book!

3rd place: Samuel Tuggy, Fredonia, N.Y.

If you like reading and camping, you should read Camping & Wilderness Survival by Paul Tawrell, because it will help you to Be Prepared. In the first aid chapter, they tell you how to do the Heimlich maneuver, how to treat wounds, how to treat sicknesses and how to treat people with broken bones. The book makes it look easy. It is important to learn first aid so you can treat other people’s wounds and your own.

It also is important to learn how to pack your gear, because if you don’t pack the right stuff, you could die. You should always pack extra stuff like clothes and ponchos, in case one gets ripped, or you lose one. It also tells you how to make shelters in deserts and forests.

It is important to learn how to identify trees and other plant life. The book tells you what plants are poisonous and what plants are not poisonous. For instance, mushrooms are sometimes poisonous. The book also tells you what animals are dangerous. It is really helpful.

The book tells you important things like how to build a campfire, what tinder is best for fires and how to cook food over a campfire. It has a section on how to use a compass and what tools you should bring, like a Scout multifunction camping knife. Camping & Wilderness Survival is really helpful — all 1,060 pages. Be Prepared!


1st place: Joshua Max, Covington, Wash.

journeyThe best book I read this year was Jules Verne’s famous novel A Journey to the Center of the Earth. Its simple plot full of vivid imagery, detailed scientific descriptions, suspenseful adventure scenes and realistic characters captivated me for hours as I plunged deep into the bowels of the earth.

I especially enjoyed this book since I love science fiction stories that incorporate enough factual elements to make them appear well researched and realistic. The two main characters are Professor Lidenbrock and his nephew Axel, who live during the 19th century. During this era, there was a common interest in the pursuit of dramatic new scientific discoveries through any means possible, several of which were quite daring and dangerous. Since Professor Lidenbrock is a renowned geologist at the local university, his occupation naturally encourages his unquenching thirst for the secrets and surprises of science while his fanatical personality makes him a perfect example of the overly zealous scientific curiosity typical of this particular time period in history. Axel, on the other hand, is quaint, timid and cautious. Their frequent arguments throughout the book provide snippets of interesting scientific theories that made me ponder whether such knowledge could actually exist. Captivating my imagination, this book felt more like peeking into the private diary of Axel as he trudged alongside his uncle on this dangerous and daring scientific expedition to the center of the earth.

While rummaging about in an antique store, the adventurer Otto Lidenbrock discovers an encrypted runic manuscript. Axel is able to decode a message that was written by an Icelandic alchemist named Arne Saknussemm, who had supposedly discovered a passage to the center of the earth years earlier. Motivated by his adventurous and courageous spirit for scientific discovery, Lidenbrock arranges an expedition to venture into the center of the globe and drags reluctant Axel along. The fantastic imaginary underground environment full of prehistoric animals, luminous caverns, vast subterranean oceans and dense forests of peculiar vegetation are particularly exhilarating. Inside the storyline, Verne explains the workings of many different scientific phenomena, while providing evidence for his emerging scientific theories.

As teenagers, my friends and I often rely on videogames to provide indoor excitement when we can’t be outdoors with Scouts. Reading this great book full of adventure and scientific jargon turned out to be just as exhilarating as gaming, while still helping me develop my own imagination. Since I want to be a scientist one day, I will need the resilience to try something, possibly fail, try something else, and hopefully succeed eventually. Being transported into a magical world full of captivating circumstances and characters helps develop that tenacity in an entertaining way. The next time I seek the thrill of a videogame, I will first further my future success by seeking the thrill of a good book.

2nd place: Ethan Smith, Moorhead, Minn.

The best book I read in 2013 was The House of Hades by Rick Riordan. The heroes of this book face plenty of difficulties in their effort to defeat a seemingly unconquerable foe. Themes of commitment and courage emphasized in the Scout Oath and Scout Law are integrated throughout the novel.

The House of Hades is the fourth book in The Heroes of Olympus series, a follow-up to Riordan’s previous Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. The Heroes of Olympus takes place after the war with the Greek titans was won and a new threat has shown itself: the Giants. Gaea, the Earth herself, is out to topple the Greek gods and is almost awake. She has accumulated forces of the Giants, some titans, monsters and even some demigods (children of a god and a mortal) of the past. The key advantage the enemy has is that when one of them is killed, he quickly comes back to life. In the Heroes of Hades Percy and his demigod friends must take a journey to close the “Doors of Death” so that their enemies do not quickly revive after being killed.

The House of Hades is a truly captivating novel, as are the books preceding it. Riordan weaves fantastic tales of friendship, heroism, romance and more. He paints pictures with words that draw the reader in to live the book, rather than simply read it. When reading these books, I am oblivious to my surroundings due to my spellbound state.

While the story engages the imagination and piques the interest of readers, there are elements of it that hold a different sort of appeal than action and fantasy. As readers learn of the characters’ personalities, they can see what they admire about the character and can translate that to the kind of person they want to be. They may see Percy’s unwavering dedication to helping others as he treks through Tartarus, and strive toward that ideal that is also seen in the Scout Oath. Readers may notice the bravery, loyalty and thriftiness of the heroes, qualities in the Scout Law, when faced with so many bleak situations. I find the inspiration toward self-improvement and introspection is an appealing aspect of many quality novels.

The House of Hades is a wonderful book, shown in multiple facets of its plot and characters. It prompts the use of imagination. It stimulates introspection. Anyone and everyone who has any appreciation for fantasy novels should definitely read this book and find the adventure that awaits.

3rd place: Ian Habakus, Middletown, N.J.

The best book I read this year was The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. In literature and popular stories, there are many examples of the ordinary person who goes on an adventure and is transformed. He solves a mystery or saves the world while also revealing new qualities, like strength, courage and wisdom. Jonas in The Giver, Alex Rider and Milo in The Phantom Tollbooth come to mind. The Lightning Thief follows the same format. The difficulties that Percy Jackson experienced completely altered the way he looked at the world. They changed Percy’s understanding of his own life. Percy doesn’t get swept away by these events; he learns from his exploits and holds control over his own destiny.

During Percy’s quest to save the world from war, he learned some important ideas that develop his character. One of these big ideas is the courage to stand up for ourselves and fight back. Two examples come to mind. First, Percy proved that he wasn’t a thief by finding and returning the master bolt to Zeus. Second, when Ares played a trick on him, Percy challenged him to a duel and won.

Another big idea is Percy’s realization that he has the ability to accomplish great things. At first, Percy didn’t think much of himself. He was passive and insecure. After discovering that he was a half-blood, however, he stopped a world war. During the quest, Percy learned that he was capable, intelligent and powerful. He saved Grover and Annabeth multiple times. He even rescued his mother from death.

I am a little like Percy, so I could relate to him. I know how it feels to be bullied. Instead of enduring spitballs and a revolting stepfather, I was teased and tripped on purpose. Percy and I both endured bad treatment and learned how to stand up for ourselves. I loved it when Percy confronted his bullies and beat them. I was cheering Percy on.

Percy switched from Yancy Academy to Camp Half-Blood. I also switched schools. Changing environments and trying new things can make a big difference. Percy mastered sword fighting, breathing underwater and talking to animals. After moving to a more supportive school, I also tried new activities that I never would have tried at my old school. I played organized sports for the first time. I didn’t like baseball as much but I contributed to the team and finished the season. I really enjoyed basketball and improved tremendously! Similarly, Percy tried new things, didn’t like some of them (i.e., wrestling), and made great progress in others (i.e., sword fighting).

Percy is a good role model. He refused to be a victim and he also helped other people. Only a brave and daring kid would face down his fears and take on the things Percy did. I like to think that I can also be brave and daring. Just because I’m scared doesn’t mean that I can’t try new things and excel at them, too.

2012 Boys’ Life reading contest winners

Here are the winning essays from the 2012 Boys’ Life reading contest.


1st place: Pierce Robinson, Arlington, Tenn.

The best book I read this year was “A Brief Biography of Thomas Edison” by Frances M. Perry. In this book I learned that Thomas Edison started working when he was 12 years old. He sold candy and newspapers on the railroad. Then he started a printing press in a freight car on the train to make a newsletter about train life. After that, he started a small laboratory so he could experiment with different chemicals and explore his ideas. Edison spent most of his life inventing products that would change the world. Among his most famous inventions were the electric light bulb and the phonograph.

I liked learning about Thomas Edison because he was an inventor, and I plan to be an inventor someday. Just like Edison, I want to use my imagination to create useful things. As an inventor, I will continue to follow the Cub Scout Promise to do my best and to help others.

I enjoy being in my Cub Scout pack because we have the opportunity to build things like our pinewood derby cars, raingutter regatta boats and other projects. We also have lots of fun. I think Thomas Edison would have been a very good Scout!

2nd Place: Michael Boddy, Bellingham, Mass.

My favorite book that I read this year was “Stitch Head” by Guy Bass. It is the story of a crazy scientist named Dr. Erasmus who creates strange half-human monsters in Castle Grotteskew. Stitch Head is Dr. Erasmus’s first creation. He is cute and almost human, but because he is a monster, he stays inside the castle. Dr. Erasmus is excited about each new monster as he makes it, but once he finishes it, he loses interest. Dr. Erasmus moves on and starts making a new monster, which he hopes will be even better. Dr. Erasmus is never happy with what he has or with what he creates. He is always looking for a better monster. Stitch Head spends most of his time forgotten, trying to get attention. He is a smart and cute little guy, but he feels like he does not matter. Stitch Head spends a lot of time helping other monsters get used to Castle Grotteskew. He tries to get all the monsters to live together without hurting each other.

One day a traveling circus comes to the castle and promises to make Stitch Head famous. Because Stitch Head always feels like he is not important, he wants to go with the circus and become a star. This will be his chance to make everyone think he is important and to have his dream of being famous. But, before Stitch Head can go with the circus, Dr. Erasmus’ new monster escapes from the castle. The new monster is named Creature, and Stitch Head needs to find and save Creature before he gets hurt or hurts someone. Stitch Head become friends with Creature. Creature helps Stitch Head realize that he has true friends, and that he really does matter. Creature also teaches Stitch Head that life can be fun.

I like this story because it shows how everyone matters. I think the story also shows that you should be happy with the friends you have and not forget about your old friends. I also liked the chapter headings because they had little poems that hinted at what would happen in the chapter.

3rd Place: Samuel Mantovani, 7, Oyster Bay, N.Y.

I read “The Littlest Volunteers” by Danielle Speckhart. It’s about helping others. In this story, an ant named Annie and some friends are learning about volunteers. She and her mom are setting up something called “Help Your Neighbor Day.” At first, Annie doesn’t know that at any age you can be a volunteer. Her mom says, “If you have a big heart, then that’s a start; the rest is up to you.” Annie and her friends hold a food and clothing drive, but they make it into a fun event. She even gives out goody bags. Everyone is really happy.

I love this book because it gives good messages and is about helping others. Helping other people can make your community and the world a better place. Helping other people is a Cub Scout thing to do. I am a volunteer for Island Harvest, a local food organization, and I have my own food drive. Every month I collect food for people at the supermarket, and then I go door to door. If I can do it, you can too!


1st place: Kye Steele, Kanehoe, Hawaii

The best book I read this year was “Eragon” by Christopher Paolini. This story is the first in a series of four books. “Eragon” has a lot of action, magic, adventure and lessons about life. This book taught me about being brave, being responsible and being strong.

Eragon is just an ordinary 15-year-old farm boy. He finds a blue rock in the mysterious and dangerous Spine forest. This blue rock was actually a dragon egg. When the egg hatches in Eragon’s presence, he becomes a Dragon Rider.

This book teaches me that growing up is not the easiest job, because things don’t always happen as wanted. Sometimes there are things you cannot control. For example, Eragon cannot stop the evil Ra’zac from killing Garrow, his uncle. Eragon has to leave Palancar Valley because he realizes the Ra’zac were after him. During his journey, Eragon encounters Urgals, slavemakers and the Ra’zac. While fighting these enemies, Eragon is injured many times and passes out after using too much magic. Yet he never gives up. This makes him a brave hero.

The second lesson is to be responsible. Eragon has a responsibility as a Dragon Rider. Others look to him as a leader because Dragon Riders can use magic to destroy the cruel and evil Galbatorix. The hardest decision Eragon has to make is whether to join Galbatorix or join the Varden, people who left Galbatorix’s empire. If he joins Galbatorix, the Varden will be destroyed. However, if Eragon joins the Varden, then the Varden has a better chance of survival. Eragon chooses the Varden to fight for survival because it is his responsibility as a Dragon Rider. Like Eragon, I am responsible for many things. At home, I feed my dogs and do chores. At school, I follow the teacher’s directions, listen attentively and learn. As a Webelos Scout, I have to put up flags, do my best and help others.

The third lesson is to be mentally and physically strong. Eragon learned the ancient language, and he also learned how to read. This keeps him mentally strong. To stay physically strong, he practices sword-fighting with Brom. Eragon has to hide from his enemies to survive. There are hard times, and the difficult journey across well-armed cities, rivers, mountains and deserts takes him months. In the Hadarac Desert, Eragon runs out of water, so he uses magic to get water from the ground. For me, to be strong when I am sad, I remind myself that my mom is here. To be physically strong, I play sports.

Reading “Eragon” took me 22 days. This book was challenging for me because it was above my reading level. The book was 497 pages long, and it was the longest book I have ever read. In the next book, will Eragon go to the Mourning Sage and find answers to all his questions? Will Galbatorix fight Eragon? In order to find out, I want to continue reading Eragon’s adventures.

2nd place: Samuel Park, Concord, N.C.

One of the books I really enjoyed this year is “The School Story” by Andrew Clements. The story is about a girl named Natalie who has an incredible talent for writing. One of Natalie’s friends, Zoe, convinces Natalie to try to publish her book. So Natalie uses a pen name, Cassandra Day, to send her draft. Natalie’s mom works at a publishing office, and before long she gets very excited about Cassandra’s manuscript. She doesn’t know that Natalie wrote the story. Eventually, after many hours of hard work, Natalie’s book gets published, and Natalie is revealed as the author.

One of the points that I enjoyed most from the book was finding Natalie so determined to publish her book — going through the editing process using a pseudonym, even hiding from her mom!

Another great thing about this book is that Zoe helps Natalie out and sticks by her like a true friend. Even when so many rejects and changes are made to the manuscript, Zoe helps Natalie through them all.

The last point that I liked in the book was the importance of a caring, trusting and faithful family. Natalie expressed her feelings in her book, so when she finally revealed herself, her mother knew exactly how she felt.

“The School Story” is a great book. It shows determination and the importance of good friends and family in hard times, which reminds me to be nicer to my brother. I give “The School Story” five stars!

3rd place: Sean Corcoran, Lawrenceville, N.J.

The best book I read this year was “The Time Machine” by H.G. Wells. “The Time Machine” is about an inventor who makes a machine that can go backward and forward in time. When the inventor gets to the year 802,701 A.D. he finds a people called the Eloi. Eventually, when he tries to get back to the time machine, he sees that it has vanished! I wonder how the inventor felt as he traveled? Was he nauseous, distressed or curious?

My favorite part is when the inventor travels into the future, because I like how Wells describes what the inventor sees. This is a great book for children and adults who like adventure, action and science fiction. I enjoy reading books about inventions, and this book shows readers a new way to think about how Earth and humans may look in the future.

The inventor makes the time machine out of materials that can be found around the house. This is a skill that Boy Scouts need if, for instance, they need emergency shelter.

One lesson of the book is that people should take one day at a time. “The Time Machine” makes you wonder if time travel is possible and, if it is, which time would you visit? I would visit the year 2016, because I would be a teenager starting high school and would like to see what has changed.

“The Time Machine” is the best book I read this year.


1st place: Peter Jacobs, Chesterfield, Mo.

The best book that I have ever read is called “Do Hard Things” by Brett and Alex Harris. This book is about the world’s low expectations for teens and how, together, this generation of young people can drastically change the world and become a powerful force for good. Although it never directly talks about Scouting, the book teaches many of the same principles as Scouting: how young men should take responsibility and not just do the easy thing.

In the beginning, the authors tell about the myth of adolescence, which is the general thinking that teenagers are naturally lazy people of whom little should be expected. As society has moved into the 21st century, young people have been expected to do less and less. An average teenager is expected to get average to bad grades at school, come home, do a chore, homework and then play videogames. Prior to the 1900s children older than 5 were expected to do more than the average teenager today. It is because of the myth of adolescence that the young men and women of today are not being encouraged and made to act and work more like adults.

The book goes on to explain three first steps. It’s always scary to first step out, do something out of the comfort zone and make an impact. Part of building self-trust and becoming a more reliable and responsible teen is to take these three steps. This may require acting when friends and culture ridicule such an effort.

Later on the book teaches a concept often taught in Boy Scouts: the power of working together. This can be the changing factor in a hard situation. Many times it is hard to do something for the first time by yourself, and the encouragement and help of a friend can help. Also, two can do anything faster. The two authors of the book describe a time when they were setting up a survey. Within a week of many people chipping in, they had their own website. It’s amazing what teamwork can do to make a job or responsibility easier.

This book showed how my culture has low expectations for me, as a teen. This is a standard that has hindered this generation from really providing support to our society. There is a need for teens who can step up, lead our country and go above and beyond the shackles of our culture. This book teaches how to do it.

2nd place: Trey Patuka, Villa Rica, Ga.

I read “The Jungle Book” by Ruyard Kipling this fall.

The book is about a man-cub who is alone in the jungle after Shere Khan, the tiger, scares off his parents. A wolf family finds him and brings him home to their den. Mother Wolf names him Mowgli, which means “frog,” and he becomes a part of their family.

When he gets a little older, it’s time for all the cubs to be approved before the council. The cubs sit in the middle of the pack. Akela, the wolf leader, sits on the council rock and says, “Look well, O Wolves.” Each cub must have two people besides his family speak up for him. Bagheera the panther and Baloo the bear speak for Mowgli, and he is now a part of the pack.

The rest of the book tells the story of Mowgli and his life in the jungle. He has many adventures with his friends, Bagheera and Baloo. They help him and teach him the laws of the jungle. Father Wolf, Mother Wolf and his wolf brothers and sisters are also there for him, and he cares about them very much.

The Cub Scout program is based on “The Jungle Book.” Tiger, Wolf and Bear are the first three ranks. Parents and leaders are Akela, named after the wolf leader in the book. Scouts are divided into dens by their grade levels, and when all the dens get together, it is a pack.

I’m really glad I read this book. It was an awesome story and I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to read more about Mowgli and his life. Though I’m a Boy Scout now, I really enjoyed Cub Scouts. My mom is a Cubmaster and always tells our pack about “The Jungle Book.” It was neat to actually read this book myself and see the connections between it and Cub Scouts.

3rd place: Tyler MacInnis, Matthews, N.C.

Of all the books I have read this year, my favorite is “Out of the Silent Planet” by C.S. Lewis. This book is about a professor named Ransom who meets an old friend named Devine and his friend Watson. Ransom discovers that they have imprisoned a young man. After doubting their explanation for this, Ransom is drugged and pulled into an extraordinary adventure in space.

The main reason that I read this book more than once is because of my love of outer space. The author describes space as such a beautiful place. We do not usually fully picture it this way, and for me, it is that feature that makes “Out of the Silent Planet” a true sensation to read. I also like this book because of its mysterious tone, which silently urges you to read on in wonder and amazement. This book contains underlying religious analogies. If you pay attention and consider what God may have created on other worlds from our own. One example is the Eldila, which are similar to angels and are seen only by the intended receiver of the message.

The thing that I love most of all about this book is how it takes the impossible and makes it believable. It takes a spaceship shaped like a soccer ball and allows it to support three humans on a journey to Mars and back. It also views Mars as an inhabited planet with trees and water, which we know is completely impossible. This book presents its information in a way that helps you completely dispense of today’s beliefs, so that a fantastic adventure and truly mind-changing philosophical understanding of religion can be presented to you.