|WESTFIELD Recently, children's author Kay Williams was presented the Carol Otis Hurst Award at the Westfield Athenaeum. This prize is bestowed in recognition of outstanding books written for children that feature the New England experience portrayed through fiction or non-fiction.|
This year's prize entry is Williams' book "Colonial Voices; Hear Them Speak." This tells the story through the eyes of Ethan, a printer's orphaned errand boy. "It's Dec. 16, 1773 and tension is growing in Boston." This hint is written on the back cover of the book. Ethan walks through local shops dropping off leaflets announcing a meeting at Old South Church that night. He visits the baker, teacher, shoemaker and other merchants and businesses who acknowledge the message in their own voices. Why is he doing this? What is happening? Read the book and follow his errand with wonderfully detailed illustrations by Larry Day. These authentically depict the city of Boston in 1773 and should be of interest for any age and grade level.
Williams is prolific writer for children who has been a teacher, poet, lecturer, consultant, adventurer, and world traveler. She has received five book awards from various foundations and studies. There are eight of her books currently in print and available in libraries. One of her special joys is visiting schools and meeting students and teachers.
Carol Otis Hurst was a local author, teacher, school librarian, children's literature consultant, lecturer and a delightful storyteller. She was born in Westfield, and her many books of historical fiction include moments and background of New England in the past. Much of her work is culled from her family stories.
Her first book, "Though the Lock," tells of orphaned children in the 19th century and set around the Farmington Canal in Western Massachusetts. It provides some insight to lives of orphaned and runaway children and their attempt to survive on their own. This was set in the short-lived world of canals in New England.
The book "Torchlight" is told about Westfield around 1850s and based on an actual event. The story is wound around the friendship of two young girls. One is a Yankee and the other Irish Catholic. When they play together at school, the Yankee girl is bullied and the Irish one is ostracized. This proves difficult for both. In that time of violent racial activity, there was an attempt to burn the original St. Mary's Church. This is a powerful story at a middle school level.
Other books by Hurst are set in Becket and Plymouth. She had completed a new book, "One Thimble, Three Bicycles and a Bit of Ingenuity," which was yet to be released by Houghton Mifflin when she died.
After Hurst's death at the age of 73 in 2007, her daughters and the Westfield Athenaeum established a book prize to celebrate her life. This award of $500 is presented annually. Entries are restricted to themes of the New England experience, written for school children, fiction or non-fiction and must have been copyrighted in their original format during the calendar year, Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, of the year preceding the year in which the prize is awarded
For further information and entry forms, contact the Carol Otis Hurst Children's Book Prize, Westfield Athenaeum, 6 Elm St., Westfield, MA 01085 or call 568-7833 with any additional questions.
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