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Volume 26, Number 7 — July 2019

Arts for Youth: Young Author Makes a Splash!

The front cover of McKenna's book, <em>Riding the Storm Out</em>
The front cover of McKenna's book, Riding the Storm Out
Additional photos below »

January 20, 2007

One might expect that the author of a book nominated for several awards would have years of experience and perhaps several books under her belt. However, Riding the Storm Out was written and illustrated by a nine-year-old girl, McKenna Andrews.

Riding the Storm Out has been nominated for a Newbery Medal, a Mom's Choice Award, and the Mississippi Mockingbird Award (recognition by her local library).

The book began as a class project. Thanks to help from McKenna's dad, the book was self-published in February 2006 using, an on-demand publishing tool. According to an online article in March 2006, "This week Riding the Storm Out was noted as a best-seller and ranked at #2 out of over 50,000 books marketed by Lulu Publishing."

Also in March, President George W. Bush sent congratulations, saying, "Your idealism and energy reflect the spirit of our nation." Today's Mississippi Woman magazine called McKenna "a little girl with a big heart and bigger imagination." Positive reviews have appeared in G9 Girl's Chain Reaction Magazine, My HomeLife Magazine (from American Airlines Publishing), Chicken Soup For The Soul Magazine, The Hattiesburg American, and the Madison County Herald, along with other print and broadcast media.

According to Chicken Soup for the Soul, McKenna donated a large quantity of her books to one of the nation's leading children's cancer hospitals as gifts to kids receiving treatment.

McKenna and her family rode out hurricane Katrina as it hit the Gulf Coast. Her book tells, not of human survival, but the story of captive dolphins being swept out to sea. McKenna's account is fictional, told from the perspective of one dolphin, whose courage enabled him to survive in the unfamiliar ocean. Her story was inspired by visiting dolphins at a Gulfport, Mississippi Oceanarium each summer before the hurricane hit, and photographs of McKenna and the dolphins are included.

Now 10 years old and a resident of Kingsport, Tennessee, McKenna attends George Washington Elementary School, where she is in the fourth grade. Her mom's new job in the Holston Medical Group brought the family to Tennessee from Petal, Mississippi. McKenna says that she loves the mountains here and is relieved that there are no hurricanes to worry about.

McKenna is eager to become more involved in the local arts communities both in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. She says, "While we were living in Mississippi I did presentations for children at many libraries, schools and festivals across the state. Everyone loved it!"

She is a member of The Washington Troupe Chorus at Washington Elementary School and is a council member of G9 Girl, a magazine for girls by girls.

McKenna is working on two new books, both continuing the themes of animals and Hurricane Katrina. She is also a songwriter, collaborating with a composer from Santa Barbara, California. Her song entitled "When We Were Kings" accompanies the dolphin story of her first book. McKenna recorded the song on her computer at home and is looking forward to a studio session.

McKenna's most imminent publication is a calendar featuring dolphins. To learn more about McKenna and her projects, go to:

McKenna swimming with dolphins at Discovery Coast in Florida.

The destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina to The Marinelife Aquarium in Gulfport, Miss. was the inspiration for McKenna's book.

McKenna with her dog Perdita

McKenna befriends a camel at the Kingsport Christmas Tree Lighting.

McKenna with a police dog at the Southern Book Fest in Memphis