Ocean’s VII at St Luke’s Grammar School, Dee Why took out the NSW state and national award for best book in the Middle School division of the 2018 Write a Book in a Day competition. We spoke to them to get the story behind their story.
In one 12-hour stretch, the students collaborated to produce a riveting book for 10 -16 year olds. Test Subject is the story of Jack Greenstone and Pete Fields, two strangers thrust together when Patch, a beloved guinea pig goes missing.
Throughout their writing day, Zoe, Isabel, Maddie, Millie, Ellen, Emily and Sophie – middle-schoolers from Sydney’s Northern Beaches – demonstrated as much skill, talent and camaraderie as the famous ensemble cast they named their team after.
“In terms of the process, when writing the book, we chose to write from two perspectives with two main writers to ensure that the voices were consistent throughout,” said Maddison.
“With the illustrating, we found it really important to create pictures that not only reiterate what the words are telling us, but also create an extra layer to the whole story,” said Ellen and Emily.
Alma Loreaux, Head of Information Services at St Luke’s, coordinates entries for several teams every year. This year she said the win brought about a lot of excitement for everyone at the school and that the book is a much sought-after read in the library’s online catalogue with hard copies available to be borrowed by the student body.
“Our winning team were absolutely surprised that their story was chosen to win two awards this year,” said Loreaux. “They were taking part in the competition because they love writing and they enjoy a challenge.”
“They were interested in stretching their capacity to empathise with an important issue, and they were keen to use this as a driver for their story,” she said.
That issue was animal experimentation, which is widely used in the cosmetic and toiletry industry as Amelia explained.
“We chose for our story to incorporate animal testing because this horrible practice is still occurring today, and people need to be made aware of the oppression that the animals endure just to give us cosmetics,” said Amelia.
“Animal testing is a cruel and inhumane way to ensure that our products are safe for our use. The harm that occurs to animals when being tested is far greater than the benefit that these cosmetics bring to society. By the end of July in 2018, the Australian government has elected to put in place a legislation that will ban all animal testing for cosmetics in Australia,” she said.
As well as having the opportunity to work on a project the students felt passionately about, there were many other benefits.
“Over the past few years, students have reflected on the way this experience has allowed them to stretch their capacity to develop resilience and reciprocity,” said Loreaux.
“They have mentioned motivation and enthusiasm as key aspects for success. Students have also commented on learning the importance of listening to their peers by really trying to understand a new idea from their perspective in a meaningful way,” she said.
The Kids’ Cancer Project CEO, Owen Finegan, congratulated Ocean’s VII and said he was delighted with St Luke’s participation in the event and their ongoing commitment to raising funds for childhood cancer research.
“This is a school community that enjoys supporting a rich culture focused on valuing and supporting literacy,” he said. “But it is clearly also one that values compassion, generosity and good will.”
“In 2018, six teams from St Luke’s entered the competition and they raised over $1,600 between them which is a great result. I understand that they’re already considering how they might raise more money next year for The Kids’ Cancer Project,” Finegan said.
Isabel spoke on behalf of the team when accepting their award at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead.
“We would like to thank our teachers for making the day so enjoyable,” she said. “We would also like to thank the organisers of the Write a Book in a Day competition for giving us this opportunity to support funding for the research into finding a cure for cancer.”