Children Across Country Write Their Own Ending to Popular Children's Book

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2,000 children across the U.S. and Canada submitted their ending to the popular picture book, HEY, LITTLE ANT by Phillip and Hannah Hoose in national essay challenge. The classic book ends with a question, allowing young readers to decide the fate of the the characters. The essays and artwork submitted addressed the fate of the Ant underneath a child's raised up shoe.

After ten years, the children's picture book, HEY, LITTLE ANT finally got an ending, or rather, 2,000 of them. Children in Kindergarten through Grade 3 from twenty-seven different states (and Canada) sent authors, Phillip and Hannah Hoose their written thoughts and drawings, answering the book's final question, "What do you think that Kid should do?"

HEY, LITTLE ANT is a dialogue between an ant and the Kid who is about to casually step on it. The Kid hesitates, though, when the ant unexpectedly talks back. The Ant pleads for its life and points out the many things the ant and child have in common. On the book's final page, the authors leave the child's foot suspended above the tiny creature and turn to the reader, asking, "What do you think that Kid should do?"

That question has launched the book, HEY, LITTLE ANT as an essential book in classrooms and libraries around the world. The book has sold hundreds of thousands of copies and has been translated into nine languages since its publication in 1998.    To celebrate the book's tenth anniversary as a classroom classic, and to honor the hundreds of readers who have begged them to "tell what happens," the authors launched The Hey, Little Ant Essay Challenge.

Judges from across the country ranging from early childhood educators to professors at universities to naturalists at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle to educators at the country's leading children's museum in Indianapolis selected sixty-one Hey, Little Ant Essay Challenge entries to honor for their creativity and thoughtfulness. Winners included both squishers and non-squishers.

"Some children simply answered the question, said HEY, LITTLE ANT's co-author, Phillip Hoose, "but many dug deeper and recognized broader questions about friendship, kindness, power, and environmental stewardship. The essays and the artwork showed how intensely they thought about the issue."

Kindergarten winner, Sophie Berghmans of Calgary, Alberta submitted a drawing with three panels showing how the Kid's relationship with the Ant changed over time. The Kid says in the three panels, "I doing lik you (don't like you)...I think I lik (like) you... I luv (love) you litil (little) ant."

First grader winner, Marina Sanchez of Wilmington, Delaware encouraged her reader to "come out on the right not squish the ant" because "he's defenseless. If you cild (killed) him, he still did nothing to you." Accompanying this essay was a picture of the Kid in deep contemplation with the Ant at his feet.

Second grade winner, Amos Livers from Oldenburg, Indiana imagined himself observing the Ant in its natural environment. "If an ant were under my shoe I would lay on the ground by the ant and watch it crawl to safety...I would watch the ant tackle this chore and admire his strength and determination."

Third grade winner, Charlie Parsons of Lincoln, Nebraska imagined a scenario in which the Kid's friends ask him to prove his friendship and bravery by squishing the Ant. The Kid in Charlie's story tried a clever subterfuge, but in the end decides his friendships are not worth killing an Ant for.

Because the book asks children to decide the outcome, it has proved to be a widely used "icebreaker" for educators and caregivers to discuss with children everything from bullying to the appropriate use of force to the ethical treatment of animals.

"It is a rare young children's story that asks its readers to look at themselves and figure out what they believe. It invites critical thinking about something relevant to them, while also being significant in a larger world context." said Kindergarten educator, Marie Simon, M.Ed., "I don't tend to be contest oriented. But, I was excited to offer my Kindergarten class a chance to share what they think, and why, in a different format."

The four winners and the fifty-seven honorable mentions will receive signed, personalized copies of the book, HEY, LITTLE ANT and other prizes. One can view the winning essays and artwork on the Essay Challenge website.

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For more about author Phillip Hoose:
Phillip Hoose is one of America's most honored writers of books for young readers. His work has earned many awards, including recognition as a National Book Award Finalist, The Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Non-fiction, The Christopher Award, The Orbis Pictus Non-Fiction Award, The Flora Stieglitz Straus Award, the Parents Choice Gold Award and many others. HEY, LITTLE ANT was a 1999 Jane Addams Award honor book. More at

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