POLAND, Ohio (WKBN) – A group of local students can now call themselves published authors and illustrators.

The second-grade students at McKinley Elementary School in Poland entered into the Studentreasures’ National Book Challenge last year as first graders with a story they wrote and illustrated, inspired by their teacher’s son.

The book, titled “U is for Unique”, is based on Mckinley Elementary teacher Amber Wagner’s son, Blake, who has cerebral palsy. Blake is also a student at the school.

Wagner says her class last year took Blake in as their little brother.

“They grew really close to him,” said Wagner. “Any time someone had a birthday party, they would bring in an extra treat bag for him or a cupcake or a cookie.”

When brainstorming ideas for Studentreasures’ National Book Challenge, being unique resonated the most with the students because of the bond they developed with Blake. Students decided on the theme to show the importance of recognizing and appreciating others’ differences. Inside the book, there are different topics like attitude and physical characteristics that students decided make people unique.

Student Eloise Bertolini illustrated the front cover, which features Blake with classmates and teachers.

“Everyone’s different in different ways and even though you are handicapped, you can be unique in your own way,” said Eloise. “I put some people with no arms, some with one arm, and some with a broken leg and stuff.”

“I wanted them to be able to take away that even though someone might look this way, or someone might act this way, they are still special in their own unique way,” said Wagner.

The students have been named semifinalists in a national book competition. If they’re named finalists, the school will be eligible for school grants up to $5,000. Finalists for the competition will be announced next in May.