Washington state

Tacoma kids' art draws jet-set audience

TACOMA - Tacoma kids' artwork is literally taking off into the skies.

When the country's youngest airline passengers settle in for a flight on Horizon Air or Alaska Airlines, they now can color pictures drawn by Fern Hill Elementary and Stafford Elementary students while reading a story about "Flash The Knight Star."

The story/coloring booklet project results from the efforts of Kirkland author Jarrett Mentink, the two airlines and Fern Hill Elementary School in Tacoma.

Mentink has written three children's storybooks, including "Kaboone!," about former Mariners player Bret Boone and "Alexander the Great," about Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander. After noticing the dearth of reading material for kids on airlines, Mentink created Kids in the Clouds to allow kids to enjoy reading during flights, just like the big people do.

Under the program, the entire text and eight line drawings from one of Mentink's books are printed on folded paper pamphlets about the size of a place mat. Horizon Air and Alaska Airlines pass out the story booklets and colored pencils to youngsters on flights.

Mentink, who grew up in Federal Way, lets the airlines use his stories for free so he doesn't make money off Kids in the Clouds. His main job is teaching athletic leadership classes at the University of Washington and sports psychology at Seattle Pacific University.

Early last year, Mentink thought it would be fun to involve Fern Hill Elementary School students in the Kids in the Clouds program through an art contest.

Reading teacher Kay Anderson had invited him to speak at an author day last spring at Fern Hill's temporary home at Stafford Elementary School while Fern Hill was being remodeled. Mentink read youngsters the manuscript of "Flash The Knight Star," and encouraged them to enter the contest by drawing pictures for the story.

The competition, which was limited to Fern Hill students, attracted more than 100 entries. Since Stafford opened as its own school building this fall, some of the contest winners and entrants now attend Stafford.

"They did a great job," Mentink said of the participants.

The author returned to Fern Hill last spring to announce the award-winners, chosen by Horizon Air representatives, and present them with prizes: autographed copies of his three books, trophies and a gift basket from Horizon Air. Winning artists

The following students won a contest to have their drawings printed in a story/coloring book called "Flash The Knight Star" that's distributed to kids on Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air flights. The students were Fern Hill Elementary School students when they entered the contest last spring, but some now attend Stafford Elementary School. Grades are from last year.

Daniel Edison, third grade

Huong Ngo Lam, fourth grade

Terence Nguyen, second grade

Nestor Salazar, third grade

Emilee Soeum, second grade

Kathryn Ly Tran, second grade

Kenneth Young, third grade