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Cracking a book: Saegertown students attend Youngstown University English Festival

by Sydney Kightlinger, editor in chief

C.S. Lewis once said, “We read to know we are not alone.” On April 26, 24 Penncrest Students proved Lewis’s statement when they joined a thousand other students from Pennsylvania and Ohio high schools at the 39th Annual Youngstown State English Festival in Youngstown, OH.

Students begin preparing for the festival last fall when Saegertown and Maplewood librarians Mrs. Betty Litke and Mrs. Jeanne Rose started organizing groups. Registration for the three day festival opened in October.  

The YSU English Festival is dedicated to examining and analysing popular young adult novels in a multitude of genres like mystery, fantasy and historical fiction. The year participants read “The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks” and  “We Were Liars”  by E. Lockhart, “I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy Nelson, “All the Bright Places” by Jennifer Niven, “Midwinterblood” by Marcus Sedgwick, and “Boxers” and “Saints” by Gene Luen Yang prior to attending the festival.

Senior Rachel Barner has attended the festival the past four years and is impressed with the books every year. “‘We Were Liars’ and ‘All the Bright Places’ really made me think. My jaw hit the floor when I finished ‘We were liars.’ It was refreshing to spend the day with others who feel the same about books,” said Barner.

At the festival, students are assigned a track with five workshops for the day centered around the selected books. Some workshops are contests like “Writing Games,” “Not So Trivial Pursuit,” “Limericks,” “Impromptu,”and “Journalism.”

Saegertown freshman Kimmy Reisinger took first for her limerick and sophomore Madison Morgan took second in “Not so Trivial Pursuit.” “I was shocked when I won the limerick competition because walking in I didn’t think I knew who to write a limerick”, said Reisinger.

In addition to competing, students get to sit down with some of the year’s featured authors. This year’s Candace Gay Memorial Lecturer was E. Lockhart, the writer of two YSU selections: “The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks” and “We Were Liars.”

Lockhart signed books and talk to students about the her writing process.

Her [Lockhart’s] writing process was really creative. She would look up quotes or stare a photo that inspired her to write. She would take her laptop and go off and write anywhere,” said Resinger.

I enjoy taking kids to the festival. They have to read seven books and be able to analyze and discuss with a thousand other kids. The get to meet authors, listen to their narrative, and ask them questions. It gives children the opportunity to see that authors are people too and that anyone can tell a story and their are many ways to tell a story,” said Mrs. Litke, who introduced the other featured author Gene Luen Yang.

Yang wrote the graphic novels “Boxers” and “Saints” illustrating the eighteenth century  Chinese Boxer Rebellion. “I love history, but I didn’t know much about the Boxer rebellion before YSU. Between the graphic novels and a lecture I sat in on, I am fascinated seeing the conflict from more than the American perspective,” said Barner.


staceyanderton1 View All

Journalism Adviser, Saegertown Jr. Sr. High School

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