Author! Author!

She’s seven years old, and she is the best writer in the state of Pennsylvania at least the best of those attending first grade.

Cricket Branstrom, a student at Russell Elementary School, wrote and illustrated “Little Possum’s Adventure” and entered the book in the PBS Kids Go! Writers Contest earlier this year.

Cricket’s mother, Carilee Branstrom, received an email from Dr. Jean Schmalzried, director of Early Childhood Initiatives at WQED Pittsburgh inviting them to the awards celebration on Saturday, May 4, at the Mister Rogers studio. At the party, they discovered Cricket took the top honors.

Schmalzried said of nearly 1,700 entries from across the state, “Cricket won first place in the Grade 1 category. This is a state award. As a first place state winner, Cricket will advance with her story to the PBS national contest. This little girl is full of spirit!”

Her book was illustrated with an art kit her mother had, and Cricket said, “I didn’t actually get to finish it (one of the illustrations) because the water colors wouldn’t dry and the colors wouldn’t look right.”

She spoke of how she got the idea for the book, saying, “We were just kinda brainstorming in the car after a long trip, and I saw an opossum at the end of our driveway.”

This isn’t her first book by a long shot. She entered a story last year in the kindergarten category, but didn’t place. Other titles she has authored include “I Love Fall Leaves”, “Mrs. Pangolin, a Scaly Anteater”, “Soccer Season”, “Safety”, “Stranded on an Island”, “The Castle” and “The Mystery of the Missing Cub.”

Her prizes were minor items compared to the recognition, although she recorded her story in her own “dramatic” voice to be broadcast on WQED affiliates during the Saturday Light Brigade show.

The book will also appear between WQED television summer programs.

According to Russell Elementary School Assistant Principal Shelly Wagner, this is the third year in a row a student from the school has placed in the annual competition.

Cricket is currently working on a new project, a book about life cycles of animals. She used frogs as an example. “First there’s an egg, then a tadpole, then a tadpole with legs, a tadpole with no tail, then a frog,” she said. “But there’s gonna be more animals in the book.”

She plans on being an author and illustrator when she grows up.