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Constance Alexander: Tradition continues in 30th edition of student art, writing anthology Tiger Tales

What did one tiger say to the other? According to Bella Cleaver, age 9, the answer is: “Be somebody who makes everybody feel like a somebody.”

Ms. Cleaver’s inspiring quote graces the front cover of the 2018 edition of “Tiger Tales,” an anthology of student art and writing produced annually by the kids of Murray Elementary School. This year marks the 30th edition of this unique project, which is celebrated every year at an assembly in the MES gym.

This year, about 700 people – including elementary grade students, teachers, parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents — packed into the gym to watch each young artist and writer receive a personal copy of the publication. There were smiles, handshakes, and hugs galore.

Every page of the 68-page anthology has something to attract the eye and spark the imagination. On page 7, Molly Wilson, age 7, took readers on a Bubble Adventure. She describes bubble fun that includes flying, soaring and dancing in the sky, but when their journey is done, “that’s the end of bubble fun.”

Abby Lanier, on page 36, treats readers to “Springtime Senses.” The 5-year-old describes a sensory splash of rainbows, the scent buds in the trees, and feeling glad for the taste of apples.

At age 8, Bella Bartholomy created a portrait of six tigers sharing their dreams for the future. “I like to teach,” a tiger in high heels says. “I want to be an artist,” claims a tiger who wields a paintbrush and a palette. “I want to be a chef,” a tiger wearing a chef’s hat declares.

The pictures and the writings reveal kids’ hopes and dreams, while also documenting memorable people and events in their young lives. Clay Peters, 7, writes about spring break, staying in a hotel, getting a new toy, and visiting Discovery Park and the Space Shuttle.

Bruce Still, age 8, describes the holiday atmosphere at “Grandma’s House.” There are “hugs and kisses” while Christmas bread bakes in the oven. Even Sage, the dog, shows up. “Outside the creak is waiting” for the kids to slide on the ice.

Like the “creak” in Bruce’s story, seven-year-old Taft Leatherwood’s “Sports Story” celebrates the “spote” of “Baskit Ball.”

“Tiger Tales” presents children’s work, as written, with their own versions of spelling and grammar intact. Going through the book, readers can see the way young kids are encouraged to capture their insights and outlooks in writing without constraints, challenging them to apply their own problem-solving and phonetic skills to get their ideas down in black and white.

Not many public elementary schools in the United States produce an annual collection of student writings and artwork like “Tiger Tales.” The publication represents hundreds of hours for keyboarding the writings, scanning the drawings, and designing the soft-cover book.

There are so many young writers and artists involved, mentioning each one is impossible. At a minimum, shout-outs and kudos to the designer of the back cover of “Tiger Tales,” Lyric Cole; and the two artists who created the inside front and back covers, June Longworth and Leah Stark. All three are 8 years old.

Working together, kids and their parents select the items they want to contribute to the publication. A front cover, back cover, and title pages of each section are chosen from the many entries submitted for consideration. MES Principal Denise Whitaker describes the process as “amazing” and lauds the Murray Foundation for its support of the project.

“Ms. Pittman put it all together,” Ms. Whitaker explained, as she thanked teacher Amanda Pittman for her volunteer efforts on behalf of the 30th-anniversary edition. In turn, Ms. Pittman announced that the 2018 “Tiger Tales” is dedicated to former MES teacher and Kentucky Teacher of the Year, Holly Bloodworth.

“Mrs. Bloodworth is truly a one of a kind teacher. Although she doesn’t grace our hallways daily anymore,” the dedication proclaims, “her presence is still felt as we plan and execute our best lessons.”

For more information about “Tiger Tales,” contact Murray Elementary School at murray.kyschools.us. The school is located in Murray at 111 Broach Street. The phone number is 270-753-5022.

Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray. She can be reached at calexander9@murraystate.edu. Or visit www.constancealexander.com.

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