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Matthew Blumenthal

The winners, sitting, take a photo with elected and school officials who attended the April 12 event. Photo from Emma S. Clark Memorial Library

Emma S. Clark Memorial Library board members and staff, the family of the late Helen Stein Shack, local elected officials, representatives from the Three Village Central School District, and guests from the community gathered on April 12 to honor the winners of the eighth annual Helen Stein Shack Picture Book Award:

First Prize (Grades 7 – 9 category): “Pete the Penguin Goes to the Library” by Matthew Blumenthal (9th grader at Murphy Junior High School)

First Prize (Grades 10 – 12 category): “The Raccoon Jug-Band” written by Amelia Grant and illustrated by Anna Grant (homeschooled 10th and 11th graders)

Second Prize (Grades 7 – 9 category): “The Big Carrot” by Julia Hou (8th grader at Gelinas Junior High School)

Second Prize (Grades 10 – 12 category): “Mareld” by Ammella Een (homeschooled 12th grader)

Library Director Ted Gutmann, along with the family of the late Helen Stein Shack, presented all of the winners’ books — bound and added to the library’s Local Focus Collection — along with $400 checks to first prize winners Matthew Blumenthal and Amelia Grant and Anna Grant and $100 checks for second prize winners Julia Hou and Ammella Een.

State Sen. Mario Mattera, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright, county Legislator Kara Hahn, Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich were all in attendance to present certificates to the winners from New York State, Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town, respectively.

Many of the speakers discussed the wonderful talent and bright futures of these winners. Englebright said, “We get a preview here, actually, of the future. And because young people who dare to dream, and in this case, put those dreams to paper and make it into art and literature, that is the future and it is reassuring.”

Romaine said, “We have some authors here this evening who are young in age, but wise in experience.” 

Library Board President Deborah Blair, Vice President Christopher Fletcher, Treasurer Carol Leister, Secretary Dave Douglas, and trustees Orlando Maione and Suzanne Shane were there to congratulate the winners.  Three Village Central School District Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich, Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services Kevin Scanlon, Murphy Junior High Principal Brian Biscari, Murphy Junior High English Chair Jessica Metrio, and Murphy Junior High School Librarian Betsy Knox, and Ward Melville High School Librarian April Hatcher were all in attendance. 

Treats were donated by The Bite Size Bake Shop, a local Three Village-owned business. Ward Melville High School teen volunteer Raymond Lang photographed the event.

The Helen Stein Shack Book Contest called for teens in grades 7 through 12 who live in the Three Village Central School District to create a children’s picture book.  Each entry could be the work of a single author/illustrator or a collaborative effort between an author and an illustrator.

“You accomplished something so incredible, and I just want to say congratulations to all the winners,” Mattera said.

The children of the late Shack established a substantial endowment with the library to cover the cost of the awards as a tribute to their mother and her commitment to passing along the importance and joy of reading for generations to come. Kornreich said that Shack not only created a legacy of her family members, but also the legacy of the books that come out of this contest.

Shack’s son, Ed Taylor, spoke about a milestone in their family this past year — the birth of the first great grandchild of the late Helen Stein Shack.

“She’s going to be sitting on our laps, and we’ll be reading her the books that were inspired by this competition that’s in the name of this little girl’s great grandmother, who she didn’t get a chance to meet, but who she’ll have that connection through these books … we thought we were giving a gift to the library, but the library really gave us a gift.”