Read the Winning Essays From the Scout Life 2023 Reading Contest

Enter the 2024 “Say Yes to Reading” Contest.

With thousands of fantastic entries in the Scout Life 2023 “Say Yes to Reading!” contest, choosing the winners was tough. Here are the winners from each age group:


FIRST PLACE: Ara A., Cape Coral, Florida

I recently read a book called Heartwood Hotel: Home Again by Kallie George. It reminded me of the Cub Scout Law because the book teaches you about courage and kindness.

Cover of Heartwood Hotel by Kallie GeorgeThe story follows Mona, a mouse who lives and works as a maid at a hotel. One day, there was a wedding at the hotel. As everyone was having a good time, Mona saw a lightning strike. However, no one else did. Just only one day after the wedding, there was a party for the hotel staff. Everyone was telling stories when they heard a strange sound. It sounded like crying to Mona, but to everyone else, it sounded like danger. It turned out that it was a fox crying for help.

Mona likes to help anyone as much as she can, so she helps the fox even though foxes are dangerous to mice. One day, a bluejay warned Mr. Heartwood, the hotel’s owner, and Mona that a fire was coming to Fernwood Forest. Word spread throughout the hotel, and soon, a long line of people was waiting to check in. Once the fire got too close for anyone to stay in the hotel, Mr. Heartwood asked everyone to leave. Mona heard someone say that he thought this hotel was about safety. Mona worked hard to get everyone to safety. Eventually, she was also asked to leave.

At the new hotel, Mona was sleeping but woke up because she wanted more tea. She followed her nose to the kitchen and eavesdropped because she could hear two crickets talking about a rumor that Mr. Heartwood hadn’t left the hotel. She quickly hurried back even though the air was smokey. Mona found Mr. Heartwood in his room. His paws were banged up. Mona begged him to come to a safe place with her. He finally agreed and left the hotel. When they headed back, the air was smokier than ever! Mr. Heartwood’s suitcase rolled and got stuck in some rocks. Mona rushed over to get it. It was hard, but she eventually got it. They didn’t know where to go, so they got into a lake, and a current pushed them onto land.

Mona heard her best friend Tiny cheer.They were at a new hotel. Mr. Heartwood opened his suitcase and showed the hotel’s motto. Everyone cheered when they saw the sign. Mr. Heartwood said, “It’s off to go to our rooms.” Mona was so tired that she couldn’t stand up. The fox that Mona helped came and helped her by picking her up and carrying her on his back. Soon, they were out of sight. “The tree would grow; buds will bloom, and it will be all regular and happy again.”

SECOND PLACE: Joshua H., 8, Chicago, Illinois (Bad Kitty Gets a Bath by Nick Bruel)

THIRD PLACE: Noel B., 7, Manheim, Pennsylvania (A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen)


FIRST PLACE: Milo B., Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

If you like Scouting and reading, Naturalist: A Geographical Adaptation by E.O. Wilson and Jim Ottaviani is the perfect book for you! It’s the autobiography of Dr. Edward O. Wilson, a world-famous scientist, entomologist, and myrmecologist (someone who studies ants). Wilson wrote a famous grown-up version of Naturalist: A Geographical Adaptation in the 1990s, but the graphic novel is newer, meant for kids, and the pictures are fantastic.

Cover of Naturalist A Graphic Adaptation by Edward WilsonThis was the best book I read all year because I have many of the same interests that Wilson had when he was a kid, like science, Scouting, visiting museums, and exploring the outdoors. My favorite parts of the book were definitely the stories about his childhood.

There’s a chapter about when Wilson was 14 and in charge of nature education at the Boy Scouts camp. This chapter is one of my favorites because even though insects fascinated him, he also had to figure out how to get all the Scouts interested in nature exploration. Wilson decided to get their attention by teaching them about snakes. He knew a lot about snakes, but when he tried to show off his snake-handling skills and impress the other boys, a slightly poisonous rattlesnake bit him, and he had to go to the hospital. When Wilson returned to camp, he was banned from handling dangerous animals. He also got the nickname “Snakes,” which lasted until he went to college.

In another chapter, Wilson got a paper route and used all the money he’d earned on movies, candy, and Scouting supplies, such as merit badge manuals. When I have a job, I’ll probably spend my money on LEGOS, candy, and Scouting supplies, too!

In his book, Wilson writes about how much he loved being a Boy Scout and how seriously he took the Scout Oath and Scout Law. He tried to live by the oath and law for the rest of his life. In the book, Wilson says that doing so helped him become a respected and successful scientist and writer. I think he was successful at it, too. All chapters in Naturalist: A Geographical Adaptation prove that Wilson lived by the Scout Law his entire life. He was always reverent in nature. Other chapters show him being brave, kind, loyal, helpful, thrifty, and other Scout characteristics. I try to live up to the Scout Law, too. This book showed me how being a good Scout now can help me become a good and respected person later on in my life.

I love this book because the characters really did exist, and the adventures they had and the discoveries they made actually happened, which is inspiring because it means anyone can work hard and try to achieve what Wilson did.

SECOND PLACE: Kavinaya A., 10, Robbinsville, New Jersey (Frizzy by Claribel A. Ortega)

THIRD PLACE: Eduardo M., 10, Alamo, California (Mario and the Hole in the Sky: How a Chemist Saved Our Planet by Elizabeth Rusch)


FIRST PLACE: Addison G., Raleigh, North Carolina

My favorite book I read this year was Restart by Gordon Korman. I love this book because you experience the feelings that the characters feel. You feel shocked when an answer is revealed or scared when a character is in trouble. I love all of Korman’s books, but Restart is my favorite. In this book, every chapter is named after a character in the story. Whichever character the chapter is named after is that character’s point of view. I love this feature because you know what all the characters are thinking.

Cover of Restart by Gordon KormanRestart is about Chase Ambrose, who fell off his roof and got amnesia. Chase didn’t remember anything from before the accident. Before the accident, Chase had stolen a Medal of Honor from a man at the place where Chase and his friends do community service. They have to do community service for putting cherry bombs on the piano at an open house.

After falling off the roof, Chase stopped bullying people. He doesn’t have to do community service anymore because of his injury. Throughout the book, Chase makes friends with many of the kids he used to bully. However, his friends kept trying to get him not to hang out with the kids he used to bully. Later in the book, Chase’s two old best friends crash in on his new friends, shooting a video. They came in with fire extinguishers and started spraying everyone. Someone went to get Chase. When he came in, his old friends told him to finish the job. Chase had no idea what was happening. One of the kids holding an extinguisher tried to hand it to Chase. He tried to keep it away from him, but it hit a kid when they both let go. All three kids got called into the principal’s office. The two kids with fire extinguishers lied about what had happened. Chase did, too.

At the end of the book, Chase returns the medal after finding it on his roof. His old friends tried to stop him so they could sell the medal. Chase went to court for taking it, and many of his new friends testified. The man who lost the medal came and forgave Chase.

I love this book because it shows that people can change no matter what. It shows that you need to be you and not who other people say you are. It also tells you not to steal and to be kind. The front of the book says, “Lose Your Memory, Find Your Life.” This phrase sums up the whole book. Chase lost his memory and his old life and found a better life. I definitely recommend this book. If you aren’t in the right place, maybe it’s time to be like Chase and restart your life without falling off your roof.

SECOND PLACE: Andrew D., 12, Cookeville, Tennessee (My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George)

THIRD PLACE: Tom H., 12, Chicago, Illinois (The Candymakers by Wendy Mass)

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