First Place winner – Ming Tokarsky
Bashkim is an unlucky as well as quite lucky boy. Growing in a new immigration family, carrying much more responsibilities than other same aged kids, Bashkim is learning and rising at the same time.
Bashkim caught my eye balls immediately when I just started to read the book. On one hand, I like the writing technique that all words and views are from an Elementary school kid. The kid always has the pair of cleanest eyes and the most pure heart to the world. He loves his new living environment, his school, his teachers, and his friends. He loves his parents and sister, even though his father treats him very mean. On the other hand, as a new immigration to America, I can fully understand the family background of Bashkim, including his father’s working hard, bad temper, desiring for money, non-stopping working, and no sense of relax; or his mother’s helpful less, weakness to face the new life, depressed to the boring life in the ice cream truck and home, and hopeful less to the future.
I like the ending of Bashkim and his sister. They are young enough to be melted into the big pot of America and they would like to be an ordinary person. It is always hard for new immigrants to assimilate to the native residents, owing to the differences of habits, culture, language, education and growing background. However, Bashkim and his sister have the chance to be brought up as ordinary American kids. That is their fortunes. At the same time, it is sad that they have to separate from their parents. It will bring some hurts to their young feelings more or less. Nevertheless, this is the life and this is the way Bashkim get rising.
Second Place Winner- Susan Mattice
In the book, We Are Called to Rise, each character was a victim of reality. The situations that arose while separate and seemingly inconsequential, lead them down paths that made their lives cross and none would ever be the same.
Avis, was subject to a failing, adulterous marriage and eventual divorce. She lost her daughter Emily to meningitis. Her son Nate served our country as a solider. Unfortunately his military duties changed him. After his military tour ended Nate became a police officer. While on duty he shot a mother of two children. Nate also had begun abusing his wife Lauren. Avis was eventually forced to tell the Chief of Police about her son and his abuse.
Roberta, volunteer for CASA, fights to make the right choices for children in need through the foster care system and courts.
Luis was a soldier who fought for our country. He wrote several letters back and forth to a student named Baskim. In one of these letters he talks about killing a child no older that Baskim. Memories of things he saw and did in the military wore on him and he eventually attempted suicide. Luis survived and wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.
Lastly Bashkim and his sister Triana were forced into the foster care system. Their mother had been killed by a police officer and their father stricken with grief lost custody. The children were separated but eventually reunited through foster care only to be introduced to Luis and his grandmother Graicela, who became their foster family. The children were given visitation to their father. I was amazed at how the stories all intertwined with each other in the end. What a great surprise ending.