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The 2015 Young Poets

This year there were 1179 entries from students throughout Jackson County! Entries were received from 33 Jackson County schools representing 12 school districts as well as charter and parochial schools. In addition, 32 homeschooled students submitted poetry. The judges were extremely impressed with the efforts displayed in the poems submitted.

2015 Young Poets Contest Prize Winning Entries

  1. Red
  2. Fish
  3. Pink
  4. Bald Eagle
  5. What Christmas is to Me
  6. Snowman
  7. Elsa the Snail
  8. Sick Puppies
  9. Tan Crayon
  10. The Robber’s Plan
  11. On A Rainy Day
  12. Wrestling
  13. The Farm Horse
  14. Hot Cocoa
  15. Sad
  16. What If
  17. Forever
  18. Hockey Pucks
  19. Winter
  20. Winter Toads
  21. Hat and Head
  22. Spring
  23. Fiery Dragons
  24. The Outdoors
  25. A Summer Day
  26. New York
  27. Fish On!
  28. Music
  29. Rivalry
  30. Julliard
  31. Father-less
  32. Gravity
  33. If I Had a Twin
  34. 365 Words of the Solar System
  35. My Nightmares Are The Happiest Places I Know
  36. Empty Government
  37. I Shall Be King
  38. T’was the Night Before States
  39. The War for September
  40. Twas the Day After Tryouts
  41. Cant Pause a Passion
  42. A changed World
  43. Kite
  44. Heart Failure
  45. The Ones on Death Row

This year, we were particularly honored to welcome nationally renowned children’s poet and musician Barry Louis Polisar to our awards ceremony.


Owen Warner, Jackson Christian Elementary, First Place for Red
Andrew Barney, Jackson Christian Elementary, Second Place for Fish
Halee Krage, Jackson Christian Elementary, Third Place for Winter
Kellen Tiffany, Parnall Elementary, Honorable Mention for Pink

1st Grade

Cody Oldre, George Long Elementary, First Place for Bald Eagle
Benjamin Fannin, Pioneers Homeschool Co-op, Second Place for What Christmas is to Me
Lily Mead, Queen of the Miraculous Medal, Third Place for Snowman
Becca Page, Queen of the Miraculous Medal, Honorable Mention for Elsa the Snail

2nd Grade

Annie Locke, Queen of the Miraculous Medal, First Place for Sick Puppies
Manix Furqueron, Concord Elementary, Second Place for Tan Crayon
Logan Schmidt, Queen of the Miraculous Medal, Third Place for The Robber’s Plan
Peyton Laura, St. John’s Elementary, Honorable Mention for On A Rainy Day

3rd Grade

Charles Simpkins, George Long Elementary, First Place for Wrestling
Opal Fomish, Townsend Elementary, Second Place for The Farm Horse
Jared Flickinger, Jackson Christian Elementary, Third Place for Hot Cocoa
Robert Anderson, George Long Elementary, Honorable Mention for Sad

4th Grade

Natalya Howard, Homeschool, First Place for What If
Faith Walsh, Homeschool, Second Place for Forever
Liam Carter, Jackson Christian Elementary, Third Place for Hockey Pucks
Katerina Fitch, Pioneers Homeschool Co-op, Honorable Mention for Winter

5th Grade

Gerald Maitland, Pioneers Homeschool Co-op, First Place for Winter Toads
Nathan Jackson, Jackson Christian Elementary, Second Place for Hat and Head
Kady Stoddard, Jackson Christian Elementary, Third Place for Spring
Troy Allison, Hanover-Horton Elementary, Honorable Mention for Hobo
Madison Sorek, Queen of the Miraculous Medal, Honorable Mention for Fiery Dragons

6th Grade

Jackson Breitenbach, Concord Middle School, First Place for My Favorite Place – The Outdoors
Katelyn File, Hanover-Horton Middle School, Second Place for Life is Like a Tree
Jessica Wilson, Hanover-Horton Middle School, Third Place for If the Past Could Tell
Monica Gazdecki, Kolbe Academy Homeschool, Honorable Mention for A Summer Day

7th Grade

Haylee Sierminski, Concord Middle School, First Place for New York
Ciara Hughes, da Vinci Primary School, Second Place for I’m Like A Song To You
Keegan Smith, Jackson Catholic Middle School, Third Place for Fish On!
Kylie Wilcox, Middle School at Parkside, Honorable Mention for Music

8th Grade

Jakob Morgan, da Vinci Primary School, First Place for Humiliation
Shea-Leigh Carris, East Jackson Secondary School, Second Place for Rivalry
Sondra Sewell, Concord Middle School, Third Place for Julliard
Alexis Mulcahy, Middle School at Parkside, Honorable Mention for Father-less

9th Grade

Taylor Gritzmaker, Columbia Central High School, First Place for Gravity
Jake Walsh, Pioneers Homeschool Co-op, Second Place for If I Had a Twin
Maria Gerring, Homeschool, Third Place for Writing
Anna Parkinson, Columbia Central High School, Honorable Mention for 365 Words of the Solar System

10th Grade

Eli Wright, da Vinci Institute High School, First Place for My Nightmares Are The Happiest Places I know
Victoria Teachout, Vandercook Lake High School, Second Place for Empty Government
Claire Childs, Hanover-Horton High School, Third Place for I Remember
Elle Redman, Hanover-Horton High School, Honorable Mention for Athletes No Longer
Brandon Shields, Hanover-Horton High School, Honorable Mention for A Year in Review

11th Grade

Anthony Coffie, Jackson High School, First Place for I Shall Be King
Tayah Schuette, Hanover-Horton High School, Second Place for T’was the Night Before States
Camren Thomas, Vandercook Lake High School, Third Place for The War for September
Tyler Duffrin, Hanover-Horton High School, Honorable Mention for Twas the Day After Tryouts

12th Grade

Mia Hall, Vandercook Lake High School, First Place for Can’t Pause Passion
Helena Howard, Homeschool, Second Place for A Changed World
Jade Melling, Hanover-Horton High School, Third Place for Kite
Laura Wicklund, Vandercook Lake High School, Honorable Mention for Heart Failure
Sierra Gordon, Concord High School, Honorable Mention for The Ones on Death Row



Book Review: At the Waters Edge by Sara Gruen

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

Set in the time frwaters edgeame of WWII, three friends, Ellis, his wife Maddie and best friend Hank make fools of themselves and disgrace Ellis’s parents at a ”high society” New Year’s Eve Party.   Ellis has already embarrassed his father, a Colonel, during WWI, by being classified 4F for color blindness, and unable to serve. He decides the only way to redeem himself is to go to Scotland to complete the search the Colonel botched several years earlier, for the Lock Ness Monster.  At this point, I found all of these characters immature, condescending, irresponsible, and thoughtless.

The three of them find themselves in a small remote village Inn on the shore of the lake. The two men become even more disrespectful, arrogant and supercilious. Maddie becomes, more meek and timid. Predictably, as the passage on the book cover says; “Maddie makes friends with two young women who help her see a larger world she never knew existed….and begins to see that nothing is as if first appears and …and monsters lurk where they are least expected.”

Although I did not like this book as much as Water for Elephants, I liked it better than The Ape House, There was one passage, descriptions of domestic violence, that was a bit graphic.

I listened to the Audio version of this book and found myself at times, not wanting to stop listening when I reached my destination.

If I measure this book on my usual criteria, how much do I like these people, will I miss them when I am finished, do I want to know what happens to them next, I would give this a 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.


The Collective Good

 Jackson, Michigan circa 1865

Jackson, Michigan circa 1865

In 1854, young businessmen in the Jackson community formed a mutual improvement society. Jackson’s Young Men’s Association (YMA) aimed to address issues of moral and political philosophy.

In its early years, the YMA sponsored debates, provided free public lectures, and attempted to establish a reading room. Strong political feelings of the day prevented the organization from developing further. The political turmoil of the 1850s increased, and fiery debates followed. The desire for libraries, reading rooms, and books was supplanted by talk of slavery, succession, and war.

War did come, and the local militia group, the Jackson Greys, led by William H. Withington answered the call. Talk of libraries would have to wait. The public focused on blow by blow battle descriptions and the fire-eater language of local newspaper editors. Having survived both prison camp and the First Battle of Bull Run, Captain Withington came home a hero. In 1863, he helped revive and formally organize the Young Men’s Association.


The Object of Mutual Improvement — Essentially, a Gentleman’s Club

By early 1864, the YMA had 50 members. Yearly dues were set at $2.00.

The object of this Society shall be the promotion of literary and scientific purposes by means of a library, Reading Room, literary exercise and lectures and such other means as are usually adopted for such purposes. — W. H. Withington: YMA Minutes 1863

In preparation for the opening of their Reading Room, the second floor of the Durand Building on Michigan Avenue was rented at a cost of $65 a year. An additional $45 was spent for tables, a dozen chairs, and a stage. On March 15, 1864 the YMA Reading Room was officially opened. It was essentially a gentlemen’s club. Week nights the janitor lit the gaslights and members came to relax, play a friendly game of chess, read periodicals from as far away as England, and smoke their cigars.

William H. Withington Portrait

William H. Withington

In consequence of the increase in number of those who frequent
the reading room, and the growing taste for reading, the Board
of Directors determined to commence the founding of a library connected with the Association, Young men and boys are asking
for books they cannot afford to buy and few of them have access
to good private libraries. We hope to secure by donations from
citizens from 500 to 1000 Volumes.
— American Citizen: November 7, 1865

Jackson citizens did answer the call with 239 donated books. Books continued to be added to the collection. The library, which officially opened in 1865, was not a true public library because only YMA members had access to the books. Members were expected to read and distribute knowledge to the “young men and boys” in the community. And while women were urged to collect books for the library, they could not join the YMA.



Local Authors’ Book Recommendation: We Brothers Immortal by K & D Bear

Jacksonians, here are local authors K & D Bear! If you liked The Clan of the Cave Bear, I bet you will like We Brothers Immortal. If you are a fan of Tolkien, you will recognize certain elements in this book. Anyone who likes science fiction or fantasy at all will enjoy the adventure contained in the pages of We Brothers Immortal. This story is filled with lots of action as well as some provocative concepts you will want to discuss with other book lovers. Be warned that the books are unedited and self-published. If you haven’t read anything self-published, this is a pretty painless introduction, with fewer glaring grammatical issues than most. It has a slow start, but that changes fairly quickly.


The Bear brothers do a good job of introducing the main characters and their lives with fun dialogue and some great descriptions. Several times I was surprised by directions the plot took, and the twin brothers often do things which are unexpected and occasionally illogical (kind of like teenagers everywhere). Each twin finds a mate and takes steps toward maturity until their lives look pretty settled. Then they make choices that throw everything, even whole communities, into upheaval and uncertainty. Just when I would think I had the plot figured out, it would take a twist into new territory, even new genres, and throw me off.


This first book in the series ends on a cliffhanger, and the authors refuse to give any hints. (No matter how much I begged!) JDL owns all of their books, and the second book is called Immortal Gates (currently checked out to me). I recommend all of their books based on this first one. ~ Tessa April 2015 3.5 out of 5 stars


May/June 2015 Newsletter

Summer Reading is Here

The Jackson District Library’s 2015 Summer Reading Program is headed your way, filled with programs, parties, and special events.
We’re starting things off with the 2015 Summer Reading Kickoff on Saturday, June 13, at our Meijer Branch.






Juvenile Book Review: Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Recently there have been quite a few books on topics of terminal disease and disability, including The Fault in our Stars, Wonder, and My Sister’s Keeper. Somehow I missed this one: Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. I had read other books by her and knew she was a good writer. So I finally started reading this on my lunch hour. Pretty soon I was hooked, laughing and reading parts out loud to anyone who would listen.


Melody, a fifth-grader with cerebral palsy, tells us about her (fictional) daily life as she goes to the special class at school, where she has a personal aide to feed her and take her to the bathroom and move her wheelchair from room to room. She shares her excitement as new technology provides her with a powered chair she can control herself. Next, she sees a girl with a laptop and asks her family if she could have one. The day her special device arrives, she and her afternoon caregiver program it so that, when her parents arrive, she is able to tell them for the first time, through the voice of the device, that she loves them. Major emotional moment.

No more spoilers—this story has a twist I never saw coming: it really jolted me. Highly recommended.~ Tessa April 2015 4.5 out of 5 stars


Recognizing The Libraries of Jackson, Michigan

We are very pleased to share the following extensions of remarks from Monday’s Congressional Record. The Hon. Tim Walberg of Michigan’s 7th Congressional District had the following to say:


Mr. Speaker, I rise today to
recognize the rich tradition of libraries serving
Jackson, Michigan.
Libraries in our community date back to
March 15, 1864 when the Young Men’s Association
(YMA) established a reading room. In
late 1865, it turned into a subscription library
for YMA members.
In 1885, the Jackson Public Library was
formed following a new law allowing cities to
use tax revenue to support a free public library.
In 1929, the Jackson County Library was
created for residents living outside the city of
The two separate entities merged together
in 1978 to form the Jackson District Library.
Today, the Jackson District Library is a vital
anchor of the Jackson community where residents
of all ages come to learn, research, and
From story-time for children to researching
family histories to taking an online course, the
library provides a wide range of services.
A hub for community activity, the library will
coordinate a festival in May 2015 for nationally
recognized storytellers where over eleven
thousand children will attend.
The Jackson District Library is a place
where residents gather freely to learn and discuss
the important issues of the day and
where they are continually inspired to acquire
more knowledge and skills.
I ask my colleagues to join me in celebrating
150 years of libraries in Jackson County,
thank these institutions for all they contribute
to the community, and wish them another
150 years of success.


2015 Young Poets Contest Winners


2015 Young Poets Contest Prize Winning Entries

This year there were 1179 entries from students throughout Jackson County! Entries were received from 33 Jackson County schools representing 12 school districts as well as charter and parochial schools. In addition, 32 home-schooled students submitted poetry. The judges were extremely impressed with the efforts displayed in the poems submitted.


Letters will be sent to the winning student authors inviting them, their family members, friends and teachers to attend the Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, May 12, 2015 at 6:00 p.m. in the Auditorium at the Middle School at Parkside. Barry Louis Polisar will be speaking and we will be presenting the student prizes, certificates and ribbons at this ceremony. The students will read their poems and recordings will be available on the Library website. In addition to the usual prizes, student award winners this year will also receive a signed copy of one of Barry Louis Polisar’s books.

While in Jackson, Barry will be visiting schools for presentations to students who participated in this year’s contest. He will also be presenting a special family night program to be held Wednesday, May 13th at 6:00 p.m. at the Middle School at Parkside.

Congratulations to the following teachers

Teachers who had the most student entries in each grade level will receive a special award to be presented books at the Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, May 12, 2015.

  • Kindergarten

    Leanne Moore, Parnall Elementary School

  • 1st Grade

    Dakota Bahlau, George Long Elementary School

  • 2nd Grade

    Amber Keathley, Parnall Elementary School

  • 3rd Grade

    Jill Barney, Jackson Christian Elementary School

  • 4th Grade

    Cathy Walker, Bertha Robinson Elementary School

  • 5th Grade

    Jennifer Raburn, Hanover-Horton Elementary School

  • 6th Grade

    Deda DeCapo, Hanover-Horton Middle School

  • 7th Grade

    Becky Adams-Hutchinson, Concord Middle School

  • 8th Grade

    Leslie Schmidt, Columbia Middle School

  • 9th Grade

    Kim Samson, Columbia Central High School

  • 10th Grade

    Shelley Job, Hanover-Horton High School

  • 11th Grade

    Brenda Ortega, Vandercook Lake High School

  • 12th Grade

    Sherril Studley, Concord High School


Book Review: Cat out of Hell by Lynne Truss

CatoutofHellprintI spent the entire time I read the book Cat Out of Hell asking myself, “Is it humor? Or is it horror?” I would alternately laugh out loud or expect creepy music. This strange English tale begins at the seaside, where we find retired Cambridge periodicals’ librarian Alec Charlesworth. Recently widowed, Alec has rented a tiny cottage to get away from all the memories of his beloved wife, Mary.

Cat out of Hell eAudio book

A colleague asks him to read over a file he was working on with Mary. Alec begins to read, and then he begins to wonder, as I did, whether the file is a spoof or a work of fiction. For the file reports interviews between a man and, wait for it, an elegant, refined, and well-educated cat. Yes, a tomcat named Roger. Who sounds like Vincent Price (before you get huffy, the dog sounds like Daniel Craig).

Then there are deaths. More deaths, in the cellar, at the library, up north—people who have been involved in some way with Roger and his life story. Alec is suspicious someone is trying to put one over on him until he visits his old workplace (which was Mary’s workplace, too) and sees what a cat has done to Mary’s rented carrel. Appalled by the size of the claw marks and by the horrendous smell, Alec is suddenly uneasy. But the story is only beginning!

When I finished the book, I asked myself, “Is it humor? Or is it horror?” And I answered, “Yes,exceedingly!” A short little book, it’s sort of fun. (By the author of Eats, shoots and leaves.) ~ Tessa March 2015 3.5 out of 5 stars


Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

Once again a bestseller much touted by everyone has failed to live up to the praise. There is a trend here that the public should take note of—if a book falls into a genre category, check with those who love the category before buying the book. In this case, The Martian could be called MacGyver Goes to Mars. If you like such things, read it. If, however, you have been reading science fiction for a while, realize that this might not be the best book for you.


First, the money! This has always been one of NASA’s major hurdles, the huge amounts of money involved in space exploration and discovery. The astronomical amounts involved in this book kind of make me want to hurl. How many Star Trek episodes argued about the value of the many vs. the one? This book turns all of that on its head. And then all the blood rushes there and makes the reader pass out. Seriously, the scenario is believable, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. The marketing angle in this alone is crazy-making.
Second, if you love technical manuals, this is a book for you. Apparently, all the science is accurate. So, yes, it’s all possible. However, that doesn’t mean I’m thrilled to read about it. I don’t read sci-fi for accurate technical details, surprise, sorry! If I wanted that, I would subscribe to Popular Mechanics and Popular Science. (Actually, I like the occasional dip into these, but not many engineering or chemistry books make it to my reading lists.) Science fiction has been aptly called speculative fiction because people speculate what could be someday, not give the steps for what could happen tomorrow.

This will make a great movie—better than Gravity, but only somewhat. The same conundrum exists: it just isn’t believable nor probable that so many things could go right. We get our happily-ever-after, but at what cost? It is a fairy tale! This technical dissertation disguised as science fiction is actually filled with Pollyanna’s special magic for a lovely happily ever after. Just skip it. ~ Tessa March 2015