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Children highlight family stories of World War II through storytelling group Grannie Annie

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
Natalie Rose Schuver, a Grannie Annie participant

We’ve talked with the local storytelling project, Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration, extensively for a number of years, but 2015 marks something special: the tenth anniversary of the organization. For that birthday, the project partnered with students all over the world to anthologize stories of an important era in international history—World War II—from previous editions of Grannie Annie books.

Credit Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
Jody Sewell, Fran Hamilton and Natalie Rose Schuver.

The volume, out now, can be found at Left Bank Books and online at Grannie Annie’s website. It features 42 stories collected from children around the country that take place in 20 countries around the world.

On Wednesday’s “St. Louis on the Air,” several people affiliated with the project joined the show to talk about the process of creating such a compendium:

  • Connie McIntyre , Founding Executive Director, The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration
  • Fran Hamilton, Founding Associate Director, The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration
  • Jody Sowell, Director of Exhibitions and Research, Missouri History Museum
  • Natalie Rose Schuver, 7th grade student, Wydown Middle School; Grannie Annie author of "Sugar, Stamps, Bikes and Metal" published in Vol. 8 of Grannie Annie

Schuver, who interviewed her grandfather, wrote his story in the first-person, using a diary-like format. She said the experience taught her that “war affects everyone,” and found the process, an hour-long interview, relatively easy to do.
Listen to Schuver’s story and the concept behind Grannie Annie here:

“What I love about Natalie’s story is that it is easy to think of World War II as something that happened across the oceans, somewhere distant, it is maps in a textbook but it affects everyone,” said Sowell. “These big historical moments, it is oftentimes hard to think of them in personal ways. What Natalie has done by interviewing her grandfather is finding those connections. She knows what it is like to want a bike; she knows what it is like to want a good dinner. These are stories that her grandfather was able to relate to her and connect her to the past in a different way, a way that is oftentimes hard for young people to get.”

Credit Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
Jody Sowell

Sowell said that in his work in oral history at the Missouri History Museum, which is partnering with Grannie Annie, he frequently comes across people who haven’t had the chance to tell their stories to family members. Projects like Grannie Annie help facilitate that process.

“It is just such a common thread through all of this,” said McIntyre. “So many parents have thanked us for bringing this idea into their family through their children because it has moved them forward. People have contacted us to say ‘my father or mother just passed and we are thankful to have these stories.’ It is something we all share, we all have a history within our family yet it is so easy not to talk about it.”

The deadline for submissions to the next volume of Grannie Annie’s stories is February 1, 2016. The book is not themed, so any kind of story can be included. Children in the fourth through eighth grade can submit their stories for publication here

"St. Louis on the Air" discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter and join the conversation at @STLonAir.

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.