Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Third-grader makes book bags for his classmates

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Brian Lewis⁄The Gazette
Marshall Butler, 10, (standing) made more than 40 custom book bags for his classmates to use to carry books. Modeling some of the bags (from left) are Brandon Brew, Cosimo Cortese and Shawna Chongwe.
Summer reading got off to an early start at Rosemont Elementary School in Gaithersburg this month, where schoolchildren toted pleasure reading books in handmade pouches sewed by a third-grader.

Marshall Butler, who turned 10 on Monday, gave the bags to more than 40 of his schoolmates so they could carry their favorite books. The last day of school was Thursday.

‘‘Like if we had recess, or if we had a break in the hallway, we could just pull them out where ever and start reading,” he said.

Marshall made his book bag — an 8-inch by 10-inch pouch with a crocheted shoulder strap — from a pair of old blue jeans last year. He learned to stitch in kindergarten.

His handiwork took off three weeks ago, following a visit to Rosemont by Brandon Mull, author of ‘‘Fablehaven,” a fantasy series starring two children in a world of trolls, witches and fairies.

More than 30 ‘‘Fablehaven” books sold at Rosemont’s book fair the week of Mull’s visit. Some students attended a book signing. Then Marshall brought his ‘‘Fablehaven” books to school in his handmade pouch and kids began clamoring.

‘‘It started with just one or two friends and it spread through the rooms,” said PTA president Jane Rice.

‘‘I would wake up to the sound of the sewing machine,” said Marshall’s mother, Terilynne Butler. ‘‘He’d be cranking them out left and right.”

Marshall, the second oldest of six children, has three sisters at Rosemont: Amanda, 11, Katy, 7, and Emma, 6. After 18 of his classmates requested bags, their friends filed orders too.

The third-grader quickly realized he would not have enough blue jeans — or time — to crochet 40 two-inch-wide handles. His mother spent more than $100 on fabric and cotton straps.

On Thursday Luciana Rodriguez, 8, carried four Hannah Montana books in her pink bag; Cosimo Cortesi, 9, toted Star Wars. And seven classmates carried ‘‘Fablehaven.”

For days Marshall sewed, but he would not have had things another way.

‘‘It took, like, every morning from 6 to 8,” Marshall said. ‘‘I would make, like, six, every morning ... I would promise them one and then I would make it because you have to keep a promise.”