LAGRANGE — Carter McCartney may only be 11, but so far, he has authored three books for his school’s annual Young Author’s Conference.
And all the books have been about a special person in Carter’s life — his grandpa John Frances Shank Sr.
Speaking in a soft voice, Carter explained that his grandpa was diagnosed with ALS — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (commonly referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s disease). ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
The first book Carter authored was “Legacy of Faith,” which focused on how his grandpa’s faith as a Catholic was passed down to his daughter, Tina McCartney and then to Carter.
The second book’s theme was “a picture is worth a thousand words” and told the story of his grandpa’s life.
“I found a picture on our wall and photocopied it and explained his life,” Carter said of the book that he wrote as a fifth-grader.
Tina McCartney said that her father was a coal miner from Pennsylvania who moved to Ohio when he accepted a job with General Motors.
But it was the third book that earned Carter the title of “Best in Show” county-wide for sixth graders at the Young Author’s Conference.
The book, with the theme of “unstoppable,” was called “A.L.S., the Unstoppable Disease.”
“He called it that because ALS is definitely unstoppable,” Tina McCartney said.
The book was told from Carter’s point-of-view. It told of how his grandpa was a strong, proud man who, because of ALS, became weaker and weaker as the disease progressed.
“He was just a strong man, who worked construction and played golf with my dad,” Carter said of his grandpa.
Keystone Middle School sixth-grade teacher Anita Cutler said she was surprised Carter won — not because of the content of the story, but because nonfiction books usually don’t win at the Young Author’s Conference as the contest is geared toward creative writing.
“I wasn’t planning to send in Carter’s book as ‘best in show’ for Keystone,” Cutler said. “However, I was so moved by the story and was impressed by the skill demonstrated in his writing that I decided to send it in.”
Cutler called the story “a wonderful tribute to his grandfather.”
“I am extremely proud of Carter and his work,” Cutler said.
After reading the story, Tina McCartney said her father also would be very proud of Carter.
“Carter was very attached to (my dad),” Tina McCartney said. “Carter has such a big heart and is a special kid. He spent so much time with my dad and he was always with me and my dad. He was there through it all. My dad would be very proud of him.”
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