Houston student’s e-book is just first such effort

WARNER ROBINS -- Reilly Pankoski was bored, so she wrote a story about a model horse.

That’s how the Huntington Middle School seventh-grader came to have a published e-book -- at age 11.

“I saw the model standing on my counter or nightstand, and I decided to start taking photos of it, and that turned into a book in my mind,” Reilly said.

In the book, titled “Sandy’s Adventure,” the model horse named in the title leaves the safety of her stable and encounters a variety of figures in the Pankoski home. Sandy learns that fish live and breathe underwater and uses a smartphone. She also escapes the clutches of a terrifying foe, the family gerbil.

Sandy does all that alone, without her friend Buttercup.

“I think she learned that sometimes you can have fun on your own,” Reilly said of her book’s main lesson.

From there, Reilly’s mother, Tara Pankoski, helped her type up the handwritten book and assemble pictures digitally. She asked a friend, Rachel Belkin, to help with formatting for an e-book, and “Sandy’s Adventure” is now available on Amazon for 99 cents.

“It’s been exciting to watch her excitement for reading ... and then carry that over to actually writing a book,” said her father, Jeremy Pankoski.

Her mother was equally impressed that Reilly, who’s now 13, took the time to complete the writing process.

“I think that blows my mind,” she said.

Reilly’s stint as an author isn’t over yet. She has a folder of handwritten books and book ideas at home, but she hasn’t decided which one or ones she wants to complete.

Her mother has encouraged her to flesh out her next projects into longer works than her first, a children’s picture book.

“So many ideas keep flowing into my head that I have to keep writing more books,” Reilly said.

That consistent writing effort is key, according to Huntington’s principal, Gwendolyn Taylor. She said that the new Georgia Milestones test requires students at every middle school grade level to write.

“We want all of the kids to practice writing daily,” she said.

Taylor also said she was proud to have a student in her school who had already published a work that’s available online.

“It’s really exciting, and you know, it makes you feel really good that kids have taken the initiative to do things ... and be creative,” Taylor said.

The extracurricular writing has paid off for Reilly. Besides making classroom writing assignments easier, she’s seen progress in her own ability.

“I write on the back of each book my age, and as I read through all of them, I can see how I’ve gotten better,” she said.

Down the road, Reilly hasn’t ruled out a career in writing, but she’s more drawn elsewhere. She’s already taken on dog walking as an odd job and would like to pursue a future in an animal science field.

“My real passion is with animals, but if that didn’t work out, then I’d probably be an author,” she said, noting the potential to do both.

To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.