Sophia Zalipsky, a fifth grader at PALCS, recently had an opportunity to nominate her favorite book, Sweet Old Sadie, for the WHYY Radio contest, WHHY I Like This Book. She was selected as a finalist and had the opportunity to attend the contest event where she was honored for her submission.

Read more to find out about the sweet story behind Sophia’s submission, as told by Sophia’s mother, Christina Zalipsky.

We were still rather newcomers to our neighborhood in 2011 and hadn’t really gotten to know many of the neighbors. Most kept to themselves – busy with work, school and travel.  But snow storms bring people together and during one such storm, we met Mr. and Mrs. Miller who lived across the street. We began to exchange a wave or two over the next few months; then a quick hello or goodbye as we raced to and from work.

Then by pure chance one afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. Miller pulled up near our driveway as the children were playing in the front yard. We had a bunch of decorations and balloons out front … it was Victoria’s birthday (Sophia’s youngest sister). It was May 7, 2012.  The couple wished Victoria a Happy Birthday and then disappeared into their home.  A few minutes later, Mrs. Miller re-appeared with a gift in hand. The gift was a book for the girls to share and this was not just any book. It was a book she had authored.  The name of the book was, ” Sweet Old Sadie.” We were simply amazed! Just shocked!  We had no idea that such a talented and thoughtful person lived across the street.  Mrs. Miller signed the book with a message inside:

Dear Melania, Sophia and Victoria,
I wish you luck and a lovely trip down Lavender Lane!

Unfortunately, Sophia took a tumble later that night and ended up with 8 stitches on her head.  Recovery was no treat and Sophia had to spend the next few days at home.  During this time, Sophia’s grandmother read her the book which Mrs. Miller gifted the girls. The story made Sophia feel better. “Read it again babi (grandma)!” Sophia would say.

Eventually we all took turns reading, “Sweet Old Sadie” to Sophia.  She loved the storyline, the characters  and all of the beautiful pictures inside.  She adored the grandma portrayed in the story and was so proud of the children who in the end take that extra step to make the Grandma feel special.  “It just touches my heart” Sophia would say. Eventually Sophia was able to read the book on her own and to this day, “Sweet Old Sadie” has a special place in her heart.

It was no surprise to me, that when Sophia’s then 4th grade teacher (Ms. Modge) initiated the project for the  “WHYY I Like this Book Contest” Sophia chose “Sweet Old Sadie.” And indeed, Sophia has so much to be thankful for and has encountered so much good luck along the way. In 2013 Sophia shot her first of nearly a dozen commercials, began enjoying much success in various theatre productions and short films. She won numerous awards both in school and within entertainment industry competitions. But one of Sophia’s proudest moments came in 2015,  when she was chosen as a finalist in the “WHYY I like this Book Contest”.

Winning this contest meant the world to Sophia, and receiving her certificate on January 28, 2016 was the most amazing experience for her. During the “WHYY I Like This Book” celebration, she beamed with pride as they called her name and the name of her school: Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School. Sophia knew very well, that she would not be standing on that stage if it weren’t for the motivation, support and encouragement of her teachers at PALCS. After Sophia exited the stage, she said, “This is the most amazing moment in my life, I feel as thought I won an Oscar Award.”