It’s tough being a stegosaurus. When you weigh four and a half tons, it’s hard to make friends—and when the friends you have don’t want to play with you, it all adds up to a bad day.
At least it does in the imagination of Maxton Cantrell, 8, who wrote “Stegosaurus and His Bad Day,” one of the four Kentucky winners in KET’s 2009 Reading Rainbow Young Writers and Illustrators Contest.
The son of Crystal and Chuck Cantrell of Raceland in Greenup County, Max is an energetic second grader who loves dinosaurs (“I really like how they attack”), playing outside, digging in the dirt, pretending that he’s in the jungle or on a pirate ship—and writing stories on these and many other subjects.
“He’s one of those kids that is interested in everything,” said his mother, a speech pathologist for Boyd County Schools. “When he gets his mind on something, he goes out with tremendous ambition. He’s very intense, personally.”
Stegosaurus’ bad day, it should be noted, turned out pretty good. He eventually found a bunch of kids who enjoyed his ability to hit the ball with his enormous tail—and his dinosaur friends, it turns out, were only kidding. Max’s interest in writing led his first-grade teacher, Lynda Downs, to enter his story in KET’s contest last year.
“He is truly a gifted writer,” said Downs, “and there’s not an ounce of bragging in him.”
Downs liked his writing so well that she permitted him to read another of his stories, “Vampire Puppy,“ to his classmates aloud.
“He would get up and read and the whole class would listen respectfully, just intent on his stories,” she said. “And these are first graders!”
“Vampire Puppy” spawned a whole series of stories, from the undead dog’s first home at the pound, to his encounter with Bigfoot, to time-traveling, and celebrating Christmas. And when February rolled around, Max delighted his classmates by making them each Vampire Puppy valentines.
“Since he first started drawing, he began making up stories,” said Crystal, who confesses she’s got an unpublished novel or two of her own in her dresser drawer. “At first he dictated to us what he wanted to write—but now I’m his editor.”
His older sister, Peyton, has recently introduced Max to another medium: comic books. After she received an assignment to create one, Max launched a new series of comic stories on the adventures of Daisy Dog, patterned after the family pet.
“It’s been a surprise that he’s been so consumed by this,” Crystal notes. “He can sit and do this for an hour at a time.”
With two bright children, it’s not surprising that PBS Kids programs on KET have been favorites in the Cantrell home. Thomas the Tank Engine, for example, was such a fixture that Max’s birthday parties featured a Thomas theme three years running. Max’s new interest in history has prompted the family to add Antiques Roadshow and History Detectives to its television viewing.
Though it’s tough to tell what vocation an 8-year-old will eventually choose, Max currently has definite ideas on what he’d like to accomplish.
“Maybe a paleontologist, a writer—or a rock star,” he says with a grin. “Or I could just write about it.”