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Sixth grader presents award to author

Twelve-year-old Kara Steel was not intimidated by the thought of representing all the fourth, fifth and sixth graders in Missouri when she presented an award to one of her favorite authors.

The idea of doing so in front of more than 900 people, however, made the West County sixth grader pretty nervous.

She hid it well, said Rebecca Forbes, West County Elementary Schools, library media specialist. Forbes, who heads the committee for the Mark Twain Award chose Kara to present Rick Riordan with the honor during the Missouri Association of School Librarians Spring conference in April. The conference took place at Tan-Tar-A Resort in Osage Beach.

The daughter of Bob and Barb Steel of Leadwood, Kara attended the conference with her parents and a brother.

“It was very exciting,” she said. “I was very nervous. We had a dinner and they ate on the floor and I ate on the stage with Mr. Riordan. He was really nice and funny. He was laid back and relaxed.”

Each year, the librarians present awards to children’s authors whose works are aimed at youth in separate grade categories. The authors must have lived in the United States and have a book copyrighted in the respective award year.

For example, the Show Me Award is given for books geared toward children in grades 1-3, while the Mark Twain award goes to a book aimed at students in grades 4-6. The new Truman Award is for books written for children in grade 6-8, and the Gateway Award is given to books that appeal to students ages 9 to 12.

Winners are chosen by students who have read at least four of the 25 or so contenders. Riordan, of San Antonio, Texas, is the first author in Missouri to win two years in a row, Forbes said. He writes the Percy Jackson & The Olympians fantasy adventure books and won the Mark Twain Award for the first two books in the series: “The Lightning Thief” and “The Sea of Monsters.” The fifth book in the series was released Tuesday.

Kara gave Riordan a bronze bust of Mark Twain during the award ceremony.

“I told him I really liked the book and that he was the winner,” Kara said. “And then I said ‘Congratulations’ and handed the award to him.”

The Association gave Kara a presenter’s trophy.

Kara said Riordan and Linda Gerber are two of her favorite authors. She reads many books, but prefers mysteries, comedies and romantic stories.

Forbes chose Kara to present the award because she is an avid reader who has participated in the Mark Twain program since fourth grade.

“Participants have to read a minimum of four candidate books each year,” Forbes explained. “Last year she read all the books. She always reads more than is required.”

Paula Barr is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 172 or at

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