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Local News

Lemont student inspires author to involve kids in writing


Nancy Gee’s journey into writing started not long after an unknown animal got into her sock drawer … only to be discovered by the family cat. Her grandsons loved having her tell and retell that story, and challenged her to write a book.

“When I published ‘The Secret Drawer,’ I knew this was the start of a new chapter,” Gee said in the news release. “In talking about my books, I always tell people that in taking that challenge the rest is history.”

Not long after publishing “The Secret Drawer,” Gee met Benjamin Latsos, a student at the Montessori School of Lemont, who had started an after-school book club and wanted to meet Gee to see if her books were appropriate for his club.

“Benjamin asked to meet with me for an interview,” Gee said. “Once he met me and read the book, he invited me to return to Lemont Montessori to read the book with the students there.”

After that reading, Benjamin, who’s turning 12 this month, sent her an email with his review of her book. Benjamin’s email arrived while Gee was working on her second book, “The Secret Path.”

“After reading Benjamin’s review, I decided to have children review my second book,” Gee said. “I was still in the manuscript phase, so it was a perfect time to get them involved.”

She took the raw manuscript of “The Secret Path” to various schools, where students learned how a book comes together. Her first stop was the Montessori School of Lemont. Gee, Benjamin and his book club members sat at a table to talk about the work. During the educational opportunity, the students saw the process from the book’s raw stages of development through to final manuscript, and then printing.

Gee said that the most fun for her was the students’ excitement and enthusiasm. After working with her on the manuscript, the students made it a class project to write reviews. Student and teacher reviews – as well as an endorsement from the Hinsdale Humane Society R.E.A.D. [Reading Education Assistance Dogs] Program – are printed on the back cover and the first pages of the finished book.

“The Secret Path” was published in February, and Gee has been visiting each of the schools to honor the children whose work is represented in the book. Most recently, she returned to Montessori School of Lemont to acknowledge Benjamin’s inspirational idea. She wanted the children to know that their reviews have been seen by thousands of people in Paris, where Gee presented her books at an international festival.

Following a reading of “The Secret Path,” each child received a bookmark. In addition to having the author sign their bookmarks, the students wanted Benjamin’s autograph, too.

“When the kids asked Benjamin for his autograph, I was so touched,” Gee said. “This young man was instrumental in inspiring me and it is fun to give these kids their moment in the spotlight. Benjamin is clearly someone his peers look to as a leader.”

Gee said this has been a great learning experience not just for the children, but for her, as well, noting that working with the kids has only increased her enthusiasm for being an author: “They bring me endless new ideas and inspiration.”

With two books having earned Mom’s Choice Awards and now selling internationally, Gee is working on a third book, and plans to return to Lemont with her next manuscript. For more information on the award-winning children’s author from Orland Park, visit


“ … When we read this book at our Book Club, the kids loved it! It’s amazing that authors can take an extraordinary moment in their lives and translate it into a story that everyone will love. I think that if you pick this book up today, you won’t regret it.”

Benjamin Latsos, 11, Montessori School of Lemont

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