Cartoon Network

Stevenson Elementary School 5th grader Lillian Hughes, 10,watches Cartoon Network's artist Dave Smith, 38, of Glendale, reads over her winning story at the Burbank school on Thursday, December 8, 2011. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

Lillian Hughes reveres the written word, so much so that the fifth-grade Stevenson Elementary School student often spends the lunch hour hunkered down with pencil and paper.

“She loves to write, she would rather write than do almost anything,” said her teacher, Ann Marie Golding.

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FOR THE RECORD: This article incorrectly spells Ann Marie Goulding's name.
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Now, 10-year-old Lillian is working with a team of Cartoon Network artists to bring her latest book, “Mr. Pike,” to life in the form of a two-minute animated film, to be screened at the Burbank elementary school's open house in May.

The project was born out of a creative writing initiative launched at Stevenson Elementary this fall and sponsored by the Cartoon Network. It is the latest iteration in a long-running relationship between the school and the media company that includes a gardening club and other extracurricular programs.

All fourth- and fifth-grade students were tasked with writing an imaginative narrative story and developing accompanying illustrations. The books will be printed and placed in the school library.

“I don't know if there is any way we can measure just how great this opportunity is for our students,” Principal Debbie Ginnetti said. “We do a lot of writing at Stevenson, but to really expand upon that and give every child in fourth and fifth grade the opportunity to create something imaginative, is [wonderful].”

Lillian's “Mr. Pike,” which tells the tale of an elementary school class taken over by a French-speaking, fire-breathing dragon in the guise of a substitute teacher, was identified as a stand-out.

“Her use of language was phenomenal,” Goulding said. “The actions of the characters were wonderful, and it just grabbed us.”

On Thursday, the budding author sat down with Cartoon Network illustrator Dave Smith to begin story boarding her work, the first in a long series of steps to convert “Mr. Pike” into an animated film. The process will take several months to complete, with the final product to be screened at Stevenson Elementary on May 1.

The best part about working with elementary school students is their creativity, Smith said.

“Their imaginations are uninhibited,” he added. “They are not scared of their own ideas. They are not worried what other people think.”

Officials hope that the creative writing initiative, which includes a $20,000-grant to cover all related expenses, will become an annual event.

It is the latest project in a decade-old bond between the school and the production company. In total, Cartoon Network has given $40,000 to the school in the last two years.

“Everything we do here is fun,” said Zita Lefebvre, director of operations and community relations at Cartoon Network. “It has been such a wonderful partnership for not only for the school, but for Cartoon Network. The employees love it.”

The relationship is bigger than money, Ginnetti said, adding that it means there are more adults to mentor students in ways that might not otherwise be possible.

“It goes beyond the money that we have been receiving,” Ginnetti said. “It just strengthens us to know that there is a partner that has such an interest in our school.”