Samuel Root. Side View. Grade 12, Age 18. 2013 Gold Medal, Art Portfolio.

Samuel Root. Side View. Grade 12, Age 18. 2013 Gold Medal, Art Portfolio.

A daughter of journalists and a son of illustrators, Scholastic Awards Portfolio Gold Medalists Isabella and Samuel recall the clack of typewriters and the smell of ink since they were infants. How did these creative sounds and smells manifest as they began to write and make art themselves? You decide.

Death of a Sunflower   


The sunflower on my desk finally died. Each tiny stoma flared and inhaled one last time—inhaled the whole apartment: the heady scent of tired books, the spicy lunchmeat Mom was unwrapping for dinner, and Dad’s hair a-burning as he worked at his computer. Then the flower shuddered, exhaled a puff of golden pollen all over my keyboard and phone, and was dead.

Brrring. Brrring.

My gold-smeared paper towel stops midswipe. Hello?

I’ve never heard your voice over the phone before. I’m almost afraid to switch ears, afraid that in that tiny fraction of a second you’ll say, oops, wrong number, and I’ll be left alone with the dial tone.

The phone is slippery with pollen and I almost drop it. My hands are streaked with gold where your voice has touched them.

Now even the tips of my fingers look happy.


I fall in love on a Wednesday.

Summer sizzles up from the Halal cart on the corner. It leaves greasy smudges on the windows of Starbucks and steams the leaves on the trees.

You run ahead of the group and stop where the sidewalk does. One black All-Star dangles boyishly off the curb. Your white tee beams at us. My gaze snags on the slant of your shoulder blade—follows it upwards—I never knew you had so many freckles on the back of your neck. Like someone sprinkled cinnamon under that russet mop of curls.

I’ve known you—what is it?—six years now. I’ve known you longer than I’ve known about deodorant. Since the days when I swore I’d never wear a bra or shave my legs, when I still had two crooked braids and teeth. Unbearably brown braids, thick and long enough for a boy to pull. Although, of course, you didn’t.

Chopping off that hair was so easy—snip, snip, snip. I thought it would be that simple. Snip, snip—let my girlish, futile interest in you fall away, sweep it into a sealed envelope with the date of the haircut.

You turn and my stomach flips. I flick my gaze away, back to Lana next to me.

We join you on the curb—Lana, Noah, Jake, and I. The light changes, but no one moves. After all, we have the whole afternoon to cross the street. Lana lights a Newport. The paper browns crisp like the edges of a pancake.

I’ve never seen your eyes this blue.

For this portfolio pair, pictures tell a story and words unleash imagination. Samuel explains: “Art has been a part of my life since the time I was born. With two illustrators for parents, I grew up in an old farmhouse with an overactive dog tethered to the leg of the couch, anatomy books strewn all over the floor, the unpainted walls hidden behind artwork, and a constant supply of paper and art supplies… I have always loved a good story, and I have always strived to tell good stories, not just written or spoken stories: visual story-telling has always captivated me.”

The power and very sound of writing still echoes in Isabella’s early memories, and stay with her as she finds her own voice as a writer. “My parents are both journalists and perpetually on deadline. They are always typing. That sound of the keyboard—bursts of tapping, long, ponderous silences—punctuates my childhood memories. On the rare occasion that we made it to a park, I loved the swings. But the keyboard was my real playground. I relished the deep grooves between the letters, the little clacking sound as the key was released, and—best of all—the mystery of the letter’s appearance on the blue screen. The fact that there could be a letter where there had been no letter before—that small act of creation—was endlessly fascinating to me. It made me powerful.

It still does.

For me, writing and adulthood are practically synonymous. Writing has made me grow up and growing up has made me write.”

To see Samuel’s Award-winning animated films and to read the conclusion (and grasp the odd numbering system) of Isabella’s story and other portfolio works, visit our online galleries!

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