PULLMAN, Wash. – Julia Melvin had a few things given to her from mom: her name, for one, as well as her artistic abilities. Now the soon-to-be senior has combined the two and won the 2014 Inga Kromann Book Award.

Julia Melvin
Julia Melvin

The annual Kromann contest is open to students in the College of Education’s Department of Teaching and Learning. As this year’s award-winner, Melvin receives a $1,000 scholarship toward tuition. Also, copies of the winning book get professionally bound and given to the WSU Libraries collection, and to Inga Kromann, who was the children’s literature professor at WSU for 38 years. She created an endowment to support the book contest, which was started by her successor, associate professor Jane Kelley (http://education.wsu.edu/directory/faculty/kelleyj).

The inspiration for her book came from her mom, who is an elementary school librarian and has been an art teacher.

“My mom had been toying with the idea of writing her own children’s book for some time now,” Melvin said. “Once, during a long car ride home from Pullman, I had been thinking of some ideas for her to use and this one just kind of stuck to me.”

Melvin had never done a book like this before. Not unless you count the makeshift 10-page book she wrote for a 4th-grade assignment.

“It consisted mostly of pictures and told the story of how my grandma taught me how to swim.”

Nothing wrong with that. But this story has a slightly deeper meaning.

The book is about a young girl named Stella, whose class is given the assignment to draw a pictures about what their name means to them. Stella realizes she is unsure about what her name means. She grows sad, as well as jealous of her classmates who are all named after what she perceives to be special people. She doesn’t finish her assignment at school, so she must work on it at home. While there, her parents help her see that, while she’s not named after anyone in particular, her name is still special because it describes her and her shining personality. At the end of the story, Stella is proud to show off her picture to the rest of the class.

“I’ve always been interested in what’s in a name, the stories behind names, and if they help to shape who we are or who we would like to become,” Melvin said. “Our names make up a large part of our identities and they are often chosen before we are even born.”

That’s why Melvin said her favorite part of this book is toward the end when Stella’s parents speak to her. Throughout the first half of the book the story is told from Stella’s point of view but when the parents start to explain the story behind her name, the story switches to the parents’ point of view.

“This allows the reader to see Stella in the way her parent’s see her and all the bright qualities she possesses. I really loved creating the pictures during this part of the story and I like how they turned out.”

After Melvin graduates, she plans on teaching abroad for a couple years, and said she would love to travel around Europe, Thailand, Bali, and South Africa.

“I have always had the dream to travel and have wanted to be a teacher since the third grade, so it’s the best of both worlds for me,” she said. “After I am done traveling I will head back to the U.S and find a job being an elementary school teacher.”

Media contact:

C. Brandon Chapman, Director of Marketing and Communications, WSU College of Education, 509-335-6850, b.chapman@wsu.edu