MEDORA

When Isston Phillips and his classmates were called to the gymnasium one recent afternoon, he thought they might be going to see a teacher get hit in the face with a pie as part of a fundraiser.

Little did the Medora Elementary School third-grader know, however, that he was about to take center stage of a celebration.

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The reason for that celebration had been kept secret from the 10-year-old by his teacher, Melinda Hardin, other teachers and even his mother, Natalie Phillips.

Isston, however, couldn’t have been more surprised when he found out that his design for a bookmark in the Indiana State Library’s annual InfoExpress Bookmark Design Contest had been the best among more than 240 other entries from all over the Hoosier State.

The contest is sponsored by the state library in conjunction with the Indiana Center for the Book.

Isston said he couldn’t believe he had been named the grand prize winner of the three-year-old contest.

This year’s theme was “Race into Reading,” and Isston’s bookmark features him with a book riding on the back of a dinosaur. He also included the slogan “We Speed Through Chapters Faster than Raptors.”

Isston said he found inspiration for his award-winning bookmark from a picture of a dinosaur he had found in a book.

For his efforts, Isston received a certificate from the state and 200 bookmarks bearing his design for his fellow students at the school.

His raptor-themed bookmarks will be printed in color and distributed to libraries throughout the state beginning July 1.

His design also will be featured at Indiana’s booth at the Pavilion of the States during the National Book Festival.

Also, his school will receive one year of InfoExpress library delivery service.

Isston’s favorite prize, however, might be the one his mom offered after the recognition.

“We get to go out and eat,” he said, adding that the choice of restaurant was his to make.

His choice was easy.

“McDonald’s,” he said.

Librarian Becky Starr coordinated the program for the school and said about 20 kindergartners through third-graders decided to enter.

She said when she saw Isston’s entry, she knew it was really good.

“I said, ‘We have got to get this one sent in,’” Starr said.

Hardin said she learned Isston had won a couple of months ago, and it had been hard to keep it a secret from him.

“I have been so excited,” she said. “He had no clue. My class had no clue. I wanted it to be a total surprise.”

The “Race to Reading” theme was chosen to coincide with Indiana’s book choice to represent the state at the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival’s Pavilion of the States in September. That book is “Race Car Count” by Rebecca Kai Dotlich. The theme celebrates speed, acceleration, racing and Indiana.

The children designing bookmarks could include any type of racing, including cars or people running, or in Isston’s case, a dinosaur running, state librarian Jacob Speer said.

Program coordinator David Michael Hicks said there were 240 other competitors from across the state, and this year’s contest was the hardest to judge.

“There were a lot of very good entries,” he said.

Since its inception, more than 1,000 students have submitted entries. Each year, a different theme that connects Indiana and reading is chosen, Hicks said.

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Aubrey Woods is editor of The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at awoods@tribtown.com or 812-523-7051.