In 2010, group of children at Wind Dance Farm in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia began investigating the practice of mountaintop removal mining in the state.
“We just couldn’t find very much on the subject aimed at children,” said Leslie Milbourne, founder and educator at Wind Dance, “So the children decided to write something themselves.”
The result — Saving Annie’s Mountain by Lillie Gill-Newton, Maryam Keeley, Nicholas Mokhiber, and Samantha Stewart.
The book was published by Cold Run Books.
What the authors found out was that mining companies were still blowing the tops off mountains. They also discovered that nearly a century ago the US Army fought against miners in what became known as the Battle of Blair Mountain.
These events became the core of their story.
“Our goal for this book is to educate young readers so that they can think for themselves,” said Stewart.
The book is an adventure about four children who leave their parents at a protest march and begin to explore a timeworn mining town.
Their discoveries yield an understanding of life in coal country no classroom can provide.
“This project really made us think about what we as a species are doing to our own planet,” Mokhiber observed. “Not only that, but what we are doing to ourselves.”
Illustrated by O’Ryan, a professional artist, Saving Annie’s Mountain presents a candid look at life in coal country as seen through children’s eyes.
When they wrote Saving Annie’s Mountain, Lillie Gill-Newton was nine years old, Maryam Keeley and Samantha Stewart were eleven, and Nicholas Mokhiber was thirteen.
All were home schooled students at the time, taking supplemental history, writing, and science classes at Wind Dance Farm and Earth Education Center in Morgan County, West Virginia.
Lillie, Maryam, and Samantha are currently completing their upper grades in public school. Nicholas has just completed a thru hike on the Appalachian Trail and will attend Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina in August 2016.