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Tweens take on publishing to benefit Make-A-Wish

| Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011

While other tweens spent their summer catching up on episodes of "iCarly," a group of local girls was busy becoming published authors. And if you ask them, they'll tell you they were the ones having way more fun.

Thirteen members of the Freeport-based Friends in the Park book club -- most of whom are seventh-graders at Freeport Junior High School -- contributed stories and illustrations for "Storytime," a collection of children's tales that will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

"It's pretty cool," says 12-year-old Bailey Kriebel. "When I tell people we wrote a book; they can't believe it."

This is the most recent project for the groupthat was formed during summer for girls between first and second grade by club mom Jennifer Covey.

"I've always been an artist, and after I decided to be a stay-at-home mom, I started focusing on that," Covey says. "I just wanted to give my daughter and the girls a way to get together over the summer. It was my way of trying to get some reading in when school was out."

The girls originally met every two weeks at Freeport Park to talk about books, make crafts and hit the playground. But Covey says the group "evolved" over time and relocated to her backyard.

"We started adding a lot of art projects and doing little fundraisers for local organizations," she says. "I really wanted to make sure the girls understood their community and giving back."

This past summer, the group decided to concentrate on just one project -- writing their first book together.

"They all came up with their own stories," Covey says. "We looked at other children's books, talked about character traits and conflict and different illustration styles. I gave them memory journals as a way to help them develop their stories -- and they are really varied."

The stories run the gamut from fantasy tales about adventures to some based on the girls' experiences.

"My story is about a ballerina who gets magic slippers," says Rachel McCandless, 12. "I love dance and ballet, so I based the story on a character that's like me."

Kaylee Polena, 12, says she has only a little in common with her main character.

"It's about this little girl who is scared to go to a sleepover," she says. "But that didn't happen to me. So I thought about my cousin who was once afraid to stay over at our house."

It is recommended that you write what you know, however, and these girls know about one thing in particular: animals. From flying frogs to fireflies, they're all accounted for.

"My story is about an elephant that wants to escape the zoo," says Elizabeth Korbeck, 13. "But when it escapes, it doesn't like the city, so it tries to find a way back."

Jade Clinton, 13, is particularly confident in her story.

"It's about this cow and a bowl of fruit," she says. "It's pretty great. I really like cows, and one of my friends was eating a bowl of fruit at the time, so it kind of just came together."

After selling handmade bracelets to fund "Storytime," the girls are proud to flip through the pages of their book -- and excited to read their stories and sign copies at Canvas Art Gallery and Gift Shoppe during Freeport's Christmas Celebration on Saturday and Dec. 4 .

They also will present the proceeds to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and will be interviewed for the organization's Light Up A Child's Life campaign Dec. 16 via webcam from Monroeville Mall.

So, how are they handling their entrance into the literary world• Mostly by giggling -- until someone revealed to Bailey Kriebel that she'd be reading her story at the upcoming event at the Canvas.

"We have to get up and read?" she asks with a laugh. "Well, now I'm nervous."

Additional Information:

Friends In The Park book club presents 'Storytime'

When: Saturday and Dec. 4

Admission: Free

Where: Canvas Art Gallery and Gift Shoppe, 320 Fifth St., Freeport

Details: 724-353-8658

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