Each fall, Austin Family magazine holds its annual Young Writers Contest for fourth and fifth graders. This year, students submitted pieces about “My Favorite Day During Quarantine.” The winners and runners-up in each grade received plaques and signed copies of judge Carmen Oliver’s picture book, A Voice for the Spirit Bears: How One Boy Inspired Millions To Save a Rare Animal, and judge Bethany Hegedus’s picture book, Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird. The winners also earned gift certificates to Amazon and BookPeople.

We thank all of the amazing writers who entered and made it such a challenge for the judges to decide on the winning essays. Thanks to parents and teachers for your support as well. We expected creativity and good stories. What we didn’t expect was to read so many celebrations of life, so much positivity and such a resounding, newfound respect for the things that really matter. It was a real treat. Their voices and stories – full of life, wonder and ingenuity – will add warmth and cheer to your day. Take a look!

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4th Grade Winner

Elwood Sentilles
Blanton Elementary


My best day in quarantine was when I went fishing with my brother, dad and my dad’s friend Dobbie. We started off in a tiny but deep and slow fishing hole. Dobbie was going to start with helping me roll cast into the deep water with a Copper John which is a nymph. (I had to earn that nymph by cleaning the house). Once I got the nymph into the water I casted it out so that I could get it farther out onto the very smooth dark water. Then I kept doing that for five or six times. After I casted it in that one spot for a while I moved up the river a few steps. Still no fish. I kept rotating until Dobbie finally started fishing on his own. Now that Dobbie started fishing on his own, I could do it my way. I went back to where I started and put on a different fly. I put on a dry fly so that it would not sink. Then immediately after I casted out the new dry fly a fish took a nibble at it. So I stayed with that fly for a long time. I moved way up,and I moved way down, still, no fish. In fact nobody had caught a fish yet.

But then my dad (who was working with my brother) said that there was five minutes till we moved up to the next spot. So I quickly put back on the Copper John, and the second I put the Copper John on the thick glowing river, a fish takes it. The fish that I had on the hook was a good twelve inch fish. I slowly pulled in the fish so that we could look at it.

And that is how I caught my first fish.

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4th Grade Runner-Up

Maya Berger

Blanton Elementary

The best day of COVID-19 was when I was at the beach in Galveston. It was so beautiful and amazing at the beach. The endless sea sparkled in the sunlight. I found pretty shells and rocks to decorate my sandcastle. I played in the water and the waves rocked me back and forth. I could hear sea birds cawing to each other. As I watched, a little baby bird stuck his beak into the sand, and pulled out a coquina clam. He swallowed it whole! Then I heard cracking sounds. He spit out the broken shell parts, and chomped down the tiny animal inside. I floated there, thinking for a moment, and then I let the waves push me back ashore.

I got up and walked over to my sandcastle. I asked my mom if we could take a picture. She said “sure”! So I posed next to the sandcastle and smiled. When mom was done, I went over to my dad and brother, Bear. They were practicing fishing. I tried to cast my fishing pole but it did not go very far. I didn’t want to do any more fishing, so I sat and watched. It seemed like dad had caught something. I walked forward to get a closer look. What I saw amazed me and surprised me!

It was a stingray! It was medium-sized and was a faint orange on the bottom. On the top it was a dull, light-grey. Mom and grandma came rushing over to help dad, because the stingray was stuck in the hook. Dad used pliers to cut the stingray free, and prodded it back into the water. As we watched it go, I said to everyone, “I think we have had enough trouble for today!”

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5th Grade Winner

Avinash Kumar

Clayton Elementary


It is 2020, a year I will never forget. A destructive pandemic named Corona put us all in quarantine. With schools and parks closed and nowhere to go, my family and I resorted to watching our favorite show, The Great British Baking Show! However, one episode after another was boring so I decided to spice it up a little (literally). I proposed starting our own family baking show. Once a week, we would all gather around our kitchen and bake smackalicious (meaning lip smacking delicious) treats. I named the show “Bake Up”. On the morning of the show I would scream “BAKE UPPPPPPPP” instead of wake up so we could start the extravaganza. It was challenging as the rules called for us to make something we had never made before. After a few hiccups like missing ingredients and scheduling conflicts, we were ready for the show. On the day of the competition my family whipped up a positive attitude. This was the first show I had seen where the contestants were also the hosts, producers, and judges. My grandparents joined us on FaceTime and BOOM, we had an audience! I had never baked before, not even for a rehearsal. I baked vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting from scratch. My cupcakes were soft in the middle and the chocolate frosting had that swirly look that all cupcakes have with beautiful sprinkles gleaming in the light. This was my best day during the quarantine. Since then, we all looked forward to the weekend for another Bake Up. My favorite part about Bake Up is that we get to spend family time where we crack jokes, listen to music, try different recipes, and have fun. Now COVID won’t only be remembered as the destructive pandemic but as the rise of a new idea.

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5th Grade Runner-Up

Sydney Griser

Holy Family Catholic School


It was a radiant day when my life seemingly changed. The sun had already rose above the horizon triumphantly, and was beginning to shine through the darkness. I leapt out of bed and darted to the windows.

My dog, Bentley, and I gazed out the window, waiting for everything to change. Quarantine life seemed slow, but this day dragged on profoundly as I toggled between excitement and nerves. Every minute that day seemed like hours, and every hour stretched on like eternity. Still staring out the window, a van skidded to a stop at our driveway.

“He’s here! He’s here!!” I proclaimed, jumping up and down with joy. My mom, dad, and I all pulled our face masks on and strode through the doorway.

We huddled on our driveway, as the man joyfully leapt out of the van.

“Hello,” he greeted. He crawled into the van and pulled out a tiny Australian Shepherd puppy.

“Oh my gosh! He’s so cute!” I exclaimed. The man carried the puppy over to us, and plopped him down. Immediately, the puppy galloped towards us. His face revealed a big smile from floppy ear to floppy ear.

I knelt down on the driveway and stared at the little puppy. “Welcome home, Henley,” I whispered. My mom handed me a collar and I fastened it onto the pup.

The collar was blue and red, with a glistening tag that had “Henley” engraved in it. Henley had prominent brown eyebrows and the sweetest face. He had a white blaze that stretched down his adorable complexion. His black fuzzy back had a snow-white heart, seemingly painted onto him.

Then, Henley smiled, looked at Mom, Dad, and I, and hugged each and every one of us. At this, I knew that our family had a new little buddy.


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