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Library Celebrates 9 Years of the Helen Stein Shack Picture Book Contest

Setauket, NY – April 25, 2023 –

A creative writing and drawing contest that started back in 2014 is still going strong in 2023. Each year, those in grades 7 – 12 who reside in the Three Village Central School District, get their imaginations flowing and create an original picture book for children, in hopes of winning this esteemed prize. Emma Clark Library board members & staff, the family of the late Helen Stein Shack, local elected officials, representatives from the Three Village Central School District and The Stony Brook School, and guests from the community gathered to honor the winners of the ninth annual Helen Stein Shack Picture Book Award:

First Prize (Grades 7 – 9 category): Boston Santa by Julia Hou (9th grader at Gelinas Junior High School)

First Prize (Grades 10 – 12 category): Sleeping Till Spring by Celia Gordon (Homeschooled 11th grader)

Second Prize (Grades 7 – 9 category): Cutie the Duck by Caroline Qian (8th grader at Gelinas Junior High School)

Second Prize (Grades 10 – 12 category): Lily’s Snowman by Amelia Grant (12th grader at The Stony Brook School)

Library Director Ted Gutmann, along with the family of the late Helen Stein Shack, presented all of the winners’ books – bound and added to the Library’s Local Focus Collection – along with $400 checks to first prize winners Julia Hou (9th grader at R.C. Murphy Junior High School) and Celia Gordon (11th grader who is homeschooled) and $100 checks for second prize winners Caroline Qian (8th grader at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School) and Amelia Grant (12th grader at The Stony Brook School).  Legislator Kara Hahn, Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich, Town Clerk Kevin LaValle (representing Supervisor Edward Romaine), and staff members from Senator Anthony Palumbo and Assemblyman Ed Flood’s office were all in attendance to present certificates to the winners from New York State, Suffolk County, and Brookhaven Town, respectively.

In speaking to the winners, Legislator Hahn remarked, “You clearly have talent and that’s what storytelling is…it’s sharing what’s in your heart for others to enjoy and learn from.”

Town Clerk LaValle commented, “It’s amazing what you did. You should be so proud of yourselves.”

Councilmember Kornreich told all of the authors what he enjoyed the most about each book and added, “Art is a powerful language…I’m sure all of you will one day have the power to change people’s hearts and change people’s minds and to change the world.”

Library Board President Christopher Fletcher, Vice President Carol Leister, Treasurer David Douglas, and trustee Deborah Blair were there to congratulate the winners.  Three Village Central School District Trustee Jennifer Solomon, Superintendent Kevin Scanlon, Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services Brian Biscari, Gelinas Junior High School Principal Corinne Keane, and Gelinas Junior High English Chair Michelle Hanczor were all in attendance, in addition to the Assistant Head of School at The Stony Brook School, Will Lingle.

Guests enjoyed special treats donated by The Bite Size Bake Shop, a local Three Village-owned business.  Library teen volunteer Jack Dennehy photographed the event.

The Helen Stein Shack Book Contest called for teens in grades 7 through 12 who live in the Three Village Central School District to create a children’s picture book.  Each entry could be the work of a single author/illustrator or a collaborative effort between an author and an illustrator.  The contest was divided into two grade categories, grades 7 through 9 and grades 10 through 12, with one First Prize Winner and one Second Prize Winner selected from each group.

The Library is grateful to the children of the late Mrs. Shack, who cover the cost of the awards as a tribute to their mother and her commitment to passing along the importance and joy of reading for generations to come. Library Director Ted Gutmann mentioned, “We appreciate the support of all the family [of Helen Stein Shack] for their generosity in establishing this endowment and for their encouragement of literacy in our community.”

In light of the fact that all of the winners were female this year, Sherry Cleary, one of the daughters of the late Helen Stein Shack, told about her mother, not just a mom, grandmother, or teacher, but as a woman:

She was an amazing woman when being an amazing woman was not encouraged and not acknowledged and not thing…she came up in an era where women had a lack of opportunities…She was brave, gutsy and really looked convention in the eye, in the face, and decided to do what was in her heart and in her soul…I leave you with that. Be brave. Be gutsy. You already are because you put yourselves out there and did this amazing work.


The Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, located at 120 Main Street in Setauket and on the web at www.emmaclark.org, provides public library service to all residents of the Three Village Central School District.

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