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We Read Youth Voices Anthology 2021

About the Contest:

The 2021 We Read Youth Voices Young Writer’s Contest was a collaboration between Madison Public Library, Forward Madison FC, and the Wisconsin Book Festival, with funding from the Madison Public Library Foundation. Young writers across Madison were encouraged to submit stories on the theme of Teamwork - but not to limit their ideas to sport. We encouraged any story, poem, song, or submission, that celebrated a community coming together for a common goal, whether or not they were successful. This anthology represents highlights of those submissions, judged by a panel of Madison community writers and advocates for youth. We sincerely thank all of the writers who found the courage to share their voices with us: you are truly an inspiration! Read more about the contest.


We Read Youth Voices Writers' Contest JudgesWe would also like to acknowledge and thank the panel of community judges who helped determine our winners, runners up, finalists and honorable mentions. Thank you for joining with us to encourage youth voices in Madison! Judges, pictures clockwise from top left, include: Tikeh Tazeh - Local Youth Author; Jaclyn Vitela - Board Member at the Madison Reading Project; Scott Gordon - Publisher of Tone Madison; Tina Marie Maes - Lead Cataloging Librarian at Madison Public Library; Poet Fabu Phillis Carter - Madison's Poet Laureate, 2008-2012; Angela C. Trudell Vasquez - Madison's Poet Laureate, 2020-2022; Kevin Mullen - Associate Director of the UW Odyssey Project; Alexis Dean - Teacher and Entrepreneur.

Not pictured: Jody Mohrbacher - Collections Librarian at Madison Public Library. 


by We Read Youth Ambassador Tikeh Tazeh

Tikeh TazehOne of the most challenging things to do is to write a story. It’s just as difficult to write a poem or a song, like many young writers wrote and composed for the We Read: Youth Voices contest. Yet 41 kids were able to persevere and submit masterpieces for the competition, and for that, I am immensely proud of the depth and breadth of the writing talents of the youth in the Madison area. This year’s theme was teamwork, and as a major sports fan, I was excited to hear this. However, when I began reading the submissions, I didn’t see many sports stories, but something much more significant. There were stories about kids working together to support a friend, students helping each other out for school assignments, and even a story about the teamwork of ants! This shows that the idea of teamwork goes much deeper than communicating on the court or calling plays on the field. It is the effort of a group of people to achieve a common goal, and that couldn’t be shown better than it is by us young writers.

Youth Voices Writers' Contest Winners Read Their Stories

Grand Prize Winner ($500 Prize): Mariel Duran-Martinez, Age 17; Runner Up ($250 Prize): Madeleine B, Age 13; Runner Up ($250 Prize): Eli Mitchell, Age 12

Youth Voices Writers' Contest Runners Up Read Their Stories

Finalist 1 ($100): Delia Dreyfuss, Age 9; Finalist 2 ($100): Lua Ali, Age 8

Xenomorph's Tail by Max Martinez, Age 15

An extra large and ferocious Xenomorph looms over a terrified human soldier. Without warning, he speaks.
Xenomorph: <Hi, I’m Ratshyatpotges, High Commander of the Long Claw army, but you can call me Kevin. Everyone else does. What’s your name?>*
Human: W-w-what h-how am I still alive? Why didn’t you kill us all? And how the hell can I understand you?!
Kevin: <Oh right, where are my manners. Allow me to explain. So, as I previously stated, I am the High Commander of the Long Claw army, the most powerful army under the rule of her Queenship, Wratgrypaliss. Sooo anyway, we- we being myself and my army- were ordered to kill you and your group. Which we did, mostly. I asked to kill you personally. Although that might not have been the whole truth. You see, many egg cycles ago I stumbled upon a human spaceship and found a great many awesome things. You could say I was hooked on the culture of humans. So I had to ask you a few questions.>

*Translated from Xenomorph.

Read the full story

Encore by Charlotte Chen, Age 16

Excerpt: With the final chime of the music, Mina’s plastered-on grin fell. It was well past dark and the blindingly white lights of the dance studio felt all the more severe paired with the sound of her panting and the faint hum of the AC. Drops of sweat pattered across the vinyl floor as she whipped her head to observe her teacher’s expression. In the far corner of the room, meddling with the stereo, stood the thin frame of the woman known as Ms. Heather. Her mouth, per usual, was tightened to a thin line. 

“I did it again,” Mina called out, defeatedly, her voice bouncing with a hollow echo. “I just need to remember to keep my core tight this time at the final fouette sequence, let’s try again.

Read the full story

Missing Pieces by Megan Ngo, Age 12

Excerpt: Ms. Lane was reading a book when the door to her office swung open. Four sullen faced students trudged in. She didn’t let their glumness faze her positivity.

“Welcome to the Counselor’s Office!” she squealed. “I’m the counselor. How may I help you?”

“Mrs. Hanson told us to see you,” one boy grumbled. “She wants you to make us connect.” 

Ms. Lane scanned the group. She knew who everyone was. The Queen Bee, the Science Kid, the Sports Jock, and the Silent Guy. Of course, those weren’t their actual titles, but with more than a thousand students in the school, it was difficult to know everyone’s name. 

“Let’s get started then!” She chirped. “Now sit down.” She ushered them to a circular table sitting in the corner of the office. 

“What now?” Queen Bee asked after they were all sitting down.

“Now,” Ms. Lane responded calmly, “you connect."

Read the full story

The Hogsworth Detective Agency by Cormac Bower, Age 9

Excerpt: Hogsworth Hedgehog woke up to the sound of his mailbox opening and closing. He got dressed, went downstairs, and read the letter inside. Quickly, he stuffed the letter in his pocket and ran to his friend’s house, knocking hard on the door. After a moment, his friend, Detective Slylock Hedgehog, opened the door and Hogsworth thrust the letter at him. Slylock read it and asked Hogsworth to come inside. They took a hidden elevator down to a lair below - their detective headquarters. 

“I know someone who can help,” said Slylock, as he opened a drawer and pulled out a tattered restaurant advertisement. “This will help us find him.” Soon they were getting in Slylock’s car - headed off deeper into the woods.

Read the full story

The Might Ants by Cloe Zimmerman, Age 9

Excerpt: Our story begins with a red ant who goes by the name of Anne. When Anne was a child, she stayed with her mom the queen ant who taught her how to be a great queen ant. When Anne was a full-grown ant, she set off to build an ant hill. While she was admiring her work, thousands of red ants who had been kicked out of their own hills offered to help her. They became part of the colony. The smallest ants, called worker ants, collected food for them all. Some of the larger soldier ants with mandibles came with them to protect the worker ants, while other soldier ants stayed back to protect Anne the queen ant and her children while she was laying the eggs.

Read the full story

The Same on the Inside by Abigail McNab, Age 6


1. Abigail plays with LEGO’s 

2. Max likes his dresses 

3. Matilda rocks her superhero masks

4. Ellie climbs everywhere she goes 

5. And Abe has longer hair than mommy. 

6. All of us are unique but we are also the same inside

7. We are all kind in our own ways. 

8. We help  others up even if we are on different teams.  

10. Doesn’t matter what you look like, or what you wear, or where you’re from. It just matters how you treat people. 

11. Be proud of yourself, and inspire the planet.

Camping with Friends by Norah Martinez, Age 7

Hi, I'm Norah and this is the story of our family camping.  It was a very long 6 hour drive but it was worth it to see our friends.  Their names are Twig, Landica, and their cute 1-year old son,  whose name is Larry.   First we went to their house to watch Larry and help cook.  We helped Twig and the rest of their family pack for camping.  I mostly entertained Larry while Twig and Landica packed their stuff.  My dad helped get their canoe on the roof of their car and then we all left.  Spending time with them was so much fun!

The Kilombo Four by Truth Walthour, Age 8

In Freedom Kilombo there are four kids. Freedom Kilombo is a group of homeschooled kids and mommies that are taught by the mommies and we do lots of fun things. We meet in different homes where the mommies and the kids live. One day when the mommies said playtime was over, the kids worked together and used teamwork to put a bunch of things from the room in front of my friend’s bedroom door. The mommy’s weren’t able to get in. I ran out of the room to get things from the living room so I would be entertained and I shut the door when I got back. We even put a chair in front of the door and the mommy’s weren’t able to get in! We were able to play the whole day! The mommies tried to get us to come out and my mommy asked the other mommies “Should we try to get them out?” and the other mommies said “They should be able to play.” The kids were able to play the whole morning!

TEAM by Evelyn Grimm, Age 14

We Read Youth Voices Writers' Contest Evelyn GrimmTrusting each other to be there if you fall

Encouraging each other to give it your all

Assuring each other it will be okay

Me and my team know there’s always a way

Teamwork by Dulce Flores, Age 15

We Read Youth Voices Writers' Contest Dulce FloresI grew up listening to the importance of teamwork in school. 

But what is teamwork? 

If people divide themselves by their skin color, race, or ethnicity. 

What is teamwork? 

If people end their shift and go back to working individually. 

What is teamwork? 

If the society we have today separates us by our origin. 

Why can’t we become one? 

Why can’t we accept each other no matter our skin color, race, or ethnicity? Wouldn’t it be much easier to work as a team to fight today’s problems? 

Read the full story

Hope Roadmap by Cynthia Rodriguez

We Read Youth Voices Writers' Contest Cynthia RodriguezKoda and I's Walking Route

My project will be based on my walking route that my dog and I take which is Pilgrim neighborhood and Canterbury. It is a very nice walk path that many people take to walk their dogs, ride bikes, walk with friends, etc. It is a route that is very hilly which kicks in a better leg workout but little did I know my daily route isn't as beneficial for everyone as it seemed, and I never considered how Mobility Justice impacts my route. 


Pandemic 2020 by Samuel Sparkman, Age 12

We Read Youth Voices Writers Contest Samuel SparkmanSpring: trees giving nothing but life giving oxygen, the sun shining with nothing but bright light. Green grass, and birds chirping beautiful like the world was not attacked by a breathless virus. Waking to nothing but beauty, nothing but narrated thoughts in my mind.  What will I do in the comfort of my home but remind myself of family love, the kindness from my very own family members, as we garden together in our Badger community plot.  Bountiful fruits and vegetables with the help of me and my family producing food during a pandemic.  A Harvest that is the result of teamwork.

Read the full poem

Operation Save Earth by Wyatt Coon, Age 10

We Read Youth Voices Writers' Contest Wyatt CoonIt was a hot summer day in California. It was the last day of school. I dreaded the last day of school because most of my friends' vacations lasted the whole summer with the exception of myself and my bestie, Sebastian. This summer was the same thing; a lot of invites but I always declined because, well, I had no parents. As always, I went home to my old, abandoned apartment, but this time I decided to do something big. This summer I was determined to find a better life.

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Blaze & Arlo by Elia V. Cochran, Age 11

We Read Youth Voices Writers' Contest Elia CochranI hate it when Susie has to work. I hate staying home alone all day long, especially when there is a storm. Luckily we are going on our annual lake trip soon. I get to come with Susie and swim in the lake all week! I hear the garage door opening, this can only mean one thing. “WOOF! SUSIE! WOOF!” The door swings open and Susie walks in. I jump up and lick her face. I spin in circles and chase my wagging tail. Susie pats my head and scratches behind my ears. “Guess who I brought home? Guess! Guess!” My tail is now wagging uncontrollably, I can’t wait to see what Susie has for me! Maybe a new toy? Fresh dog biscuits? A steak?!? “WOOF! WOOF!” “Ok I’ll go get her!” “WOOF!” Susie runs back out to the car and about 1 minute later she comes back with a big brown box. I jump up and lick her face. “Down, Arlo.” I sit down, my tail still wagging. Susie sets the box down and takes off her rain jacket, after hanging it up on the coat tree, she sits down too. I paw at the box, all of a sudden there is a loud “MEOW!” I jump back. “Don’t worry Arlo baby!” Susie opens the box and a little orange head pops out.

Read the full story


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