A senior from Illiana Christian High School in Dyer has won a literature essay contest organized by the Indiana State Library Foundation.
Students from across Indiana wrote letters to their favorite authors about the impact their books have had on the way they see themselves and the world. Loralee DeYoung wrote to author Markus Zusak about her book “The Book Thief.”
“The Book Thief” is a novel that centers on a girl in Germany during World War II who steals books and learns to read, finding solace in the hobby during a difficult time.
DeYoung said she wrote about the book because of the discussions of grief present in the novel. She said it helped her cope with a loss in her family at a young age.
“It was helpful to know that other people were going through the same thing,” DeYoung said.
As the first place winner, she will have her letter printed in an anthology, receive a $100 prize and prize package, as well as a writing workshop and awards ceremony.
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Eight other Illiana students finished in the top 24, and there were more graduating students from Illiana than from any other school in Indiana.
DeYoung was surprised to learn that she had won, because the contest started a few months ago and she had forgotten about it.
It was his teacher, Jeff DeVries, who told him.
“She had a ‘deer in the headlights’ moment,” DeVries said.
The anthology will be released in the fall and DeYoung will have the chance to work with Margaret Peterson Haddix, a New York Times bestselling author who wrote the books “Shadow Children” and “The Missing.”
DeVries said he was very proud of DeYoung and all of his students who placed. He said he had been competing in his advanced literature class for four years and it was the second time they had a first-time winner.
He said he had heard there were over a thousand entries, and although Illiana had done well before, he never had so many students.
DeYoung plans to continue writing after graduation. She hopes to major in teaching language arts and become an English teacher.