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Willa Cather Foundation - Red Cloud Nebraska (NE)

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Webster County Sixth Grader MaKenna Karr Celebrates Antonette Willa Skupa Turner

Webster County Sixth Grader MaKenna Karr Celebrates Antonette Willa Skupa Turner

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Some kids growing up in Webster County, Nebraska, may not know who Antonette Turner is, and they may not know about Turner’s grandmother, Anna Pavelka, either. But MaKenna Karr wants to change that. The Silver Lake Elementary sixth grader shares a special bond with the woman she calls “Toni,” and on October 15, she will introduce her fellow students to Toni Turner.

“I want them to understand how special Antonette is,” Karr said. In addition to the upcoming presentation at her school, Karr received special recognition for a scrapbook she created about Turner as her 4-H project for this year’s Webster County Fair.

As the granddaughter of the woman who inspired Willa Cather’s most famous character, Turner provides young people with a direct line to the area’s rich literary history, and Karr recognized this after reading a copy of My Ántonia given to her by her own grandmother. “I loved that it was about where I lived,” Karr explained. She has also read O Pioneers! and she has a copy of Sapphira and the Slave Girl and the Selected Letters in her stack of books to read next.

When asked about other characters in Cather’s works that inspire her, Karr said, “I love Alexandra in O Pioneers! She’s awesome. She took over after her father’s sudden death and she just knew what to do.” Karr also seems to know just what to do when it comes to connecting her peers to their community’s past. She also hopes to clear up a common misconception about her own generation.

“Just because we are kids doesn’t mean we don’t care about history,” Karr said. “It’s really cool to live in Webster County where an author like Willa Cather wrote and made Nebraska famous.”