2007 Letters About Literature Winners
Level I (4-6 grade)
To: Madeleine L‘Engle, A Wrinkle in Time
From: Emily Boring, Salem
Dear Madeleine L‘Engle,
Tessering, traveling through different dimensions, through different time. It‘s all so intriguing. Anyone who read your book would be satisfied with just that. Sort of like an artichoke, (I don‘t like to compare your book to something like that, but it was the best thing that came to my mind) A Wrinkle in Time is good and enriching on the outer layers,
but you have to persist through those layers first before finding the best part, the heart, which is different for everyone.
When I read your book, I sensed that there was something underneath the writing, so I kept an eye out. I found myself drawn towards not the main character, Meg, but towards Charles Wallace.
I have a brother named Aaron. He is two years younger than me and he has special needs. He has trouble communicating and can‘t do simple things like dress himself or tie his shoes. Few people understand him, or even try to understand him.
That‘s why I took an interest in Charles Wallace. Though Charles doesn‘t get along with many people and everyone thinks he‘s not smart at all, he understands about tessering and everything that‘s really important, not just subjects in school, better than anyone. Maybe Aaron is very bright inside, but he just can‘t express it.
Also, since Charles Wallace doesn‘t talk much, he is good at reading feelings. He can always sense when Meg is feeling a powerful emotion, like their minds are connected by an invisible wire. Sometimes it seems as though Aaron can sense the same kind of thing; since he doesn‘t understand most speech, wouldn‘t that make his ability to read feelings twice as strong?
Like an artichoke, everything on the outside is good, and most people would leave it at that. But I found the heart of your book; just like Charles Wallace, Aaron is behind in many ways, but far, far ahead in others.
Copyright? The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Used by permission. We do not charge a fee.
To: Kevin Kenkes, Olive’s Ocean
From: Grace Diehl, Salem
Dear Kevin Henkes,
Most books don‘t make me think beyond the plot. Your book, Olive‘s Ocean was different. It taught me that the world could exist without me. If I were to die, life for all others would continue, completely unknowing that I was dead.
My world changes forever when I got to the part where Martha almost drowned. My eyes were glued to the page. I was unable to look away. It wasn‘t her I thought of drowning. It was me. My life is much different than Martha‘s, but for one moment our lives were the same. When I put the book down at the end I was changed. I was grateful to have such a good family and simply to be alive. I felt like I was the one who had almost drowned. Now I know just how much I love my life.
Your book also showed me how much I love my family. When I began to read your book, my parents really annoyed me. They were being overprotective. I wanted to have different parents, any ones but the ones I have. After reading your book I realized family arguments didn‘t change how much I love my family. Now I wouldn‘t trade my parents for any others in the world. Every family has its problems, but my families perfect for me.
Your book taught me a lot. I‘ll never forget any thing I learned!
Copyright? The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Used by permission. We do not charge a fee.
To: Nancy Krulik, Who’s Afraid of Fourth Grade
From: Diana Mejia, Portland
Dear Nancy Krulik,
I like the character Katie. She is just like me. When it was the first day of school, I was a little nervous because it will be a little hard. But then, one week later, it was not so bad after all! Katie did not have to be mad because she did not get the class she wanted. Maybe the teacher was nice.
When I read the book it made me think of my sister because Susanna bragged a little because she got Miss Sweet. That made me feel bad. My favorite part was when Katie describes what Miss Derman dresses like: the shoes and the hair.
I learned that it doesn‘t matter which teacher you get because all the teachers are nice and fun.
Copyright? The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Used by permission. We do not charge a fee.
To: Erin Hunter, Dawn
From: Alise Nikitenko, Beaverton
Dear Erin Hunter,
My name is Alise and I recently read your book entitle, ―Dawn‖ from the New
Prophecy series. As I was reading I couldn‘t help but realize that I too had a long journey that I had to take. As all the Clans had to move from their homes and surroundings that they loved and enjoyed, I too had to move to a new place. The reason is that I originally lived in Russia, but I had to move with my mom to a very dark and mysterious place called Oregon. As Furestar and the Clans didn‘t know what to expect, at least they knew the language. I, upon arriving in this new country, didn‘t read or write English.
At first, it was really challenging going to American school, not knowing what everyone is talking about, and not having any friends. It seemed like everything was dark and unknown. I would have loved to participate and discuss what everyone was doing but the language seemed impossible to learn. However, after time, as the Clans found their new territory and became comfortable with it, I too became comfortable living in Oregon. Because I went to school ever day and all people around me were talking in another language, I started learning English, step by step, and pretty soon I knew the language as good as anyone else and was an expert on spelling.
I really enjoyed reading ―Dawn‖ as the experiences the Clans went through I too
went through the same experiences but only on a much different level. I was amazed to see how much I, Firestar , and the Clans had in common.
Thank you for writing a great book. Your book made me understand that any place can be good for a hone, after you know how to live in it. I am looking forward to reading more of your books and finding more similarities between me and the Clans.
To: Alice Kern, Tapestry of Hope
From: Keep Nathanson, Portland,
Dear Alice Kern,
Thank you for taking the events that happened to you during World War 2 and writing Tapestry of Hope. It must have been hard for you to write about these terrible events that happened to you that you might not want to talk about.
Before I read your book, when I thought about concentration camps, I would sometimes think, I probably could survive the concentration camps, how hard could they really be? Now I know that the chances of that aren‘t very big. This is probably because what I had read and heard about concentration camps wasn‘t everything. Many books I‘ve read don‘t use that much detail, and they don‘t mention every terrible thing that
happens in those awful places. In Tapestry of Hope however, you told a least enough
things to make anyone who reads your book realize that surviving a concentration camp wasn‘t a snap. Like how you mentioned you could be hit or killed for no reason and how
little food you got, like sometimes just a piece bread and cup of water. Those and so many other things you talk about make me realize that if you survive the concentration camps, you are a lucky one, and that it took a lot of determination and courage, which leads into the other thing I learned from your book.
The other thing I learned from your book was to never give up. In Tapestry of Hope, every second you spent in those camps you were determined to live. Never once did you say to yourself, ―I can‘t take any lnger, I don‘t want to live!‖ You figured out that never giving up was one of the keys to surviving the concentration camps. To never give up is also something you can put to use in every day life. If you are always saying, this is too hard, I can‘t do it, then you are never challenging yourself. Never stop trying, if something‘s hard, ask for help, but don‘t give up. You learned that the hard way, but you listened to that life lesson, and you got to keep your life. If everyone in the world was that determined to do everything they try, this you be a much better world.
Thank you for writing a book that taught me and probably hundreds of people what the world sometimes is really like, and how to get through it.
To: Agatha Christie: The Mystery of the Blue Train
From: Sophia Nielsen, Lake Oswego
Dear Agatha Christie,
I have to admit that before I read your book (of which there are many, I‘ve heard) The Mystery of the Blue Train, I thought I had read every version of a mystery (well, not every mystery, but I‘ve read a lot, mostly vintage). I mean that mysteries didn‘t surprise
me anymore. (I‘m not quite to the point of my mom, who figures out the answer to any mystery practically before the author even does, but I can usually tell who ―did it‖ before the end of the book or movie or whatever).
The reason I first started your book was for a mystery unit we were staring in class. Originally, I wanted to continue the Trixie Belden series, which I collect, along with other classic mystery novels, but I couldn‘t find any. Not to sound as though your novel was a second choice or anything, but it‘s true. We finally just jad to head over to the local Border‘s to find a book for me after I failed to find the next book in the series. I have to say, I am very glad that I did.
I have read ironic books, including O. Henry‘s, but those books you can always
expect to be ironic and unexpected to the point where the twist is nearly obvious to a sharp ―eye.‖ But while reading your book, I was sure that I had the solution all figured
out from about halfway. I was sure that Mirelle had gone against Derek and had a thug murder Ruth Kettering. I was so sure. Everything she did, everything she said, just seemed to tug the trigger more so in her direction when it came to guilt.
You completely and totally humbled me; nearly to the point of embarrassment. I‘ve always been the person to peer around the corner and try to see something from a different view, but your book really got me thinking. Not just to increase empathy, which I mostly have in plenty (hey, nobody‘s perfect).
I have come to the conclusion that any question, any view, any thing anywhere at all, is like a crystal. From every angle you see a different facet; sometimes you see nothing at all; sometimes there is something that obscures your view. So you got me to realize that life, death, or whatever, is a crystal. Anything you see, or think you see, you
can only understand or know if you look at it from every possible angle. So I‘ve begun applying this to other things in my life, other than reading.
So I suppose, in a way, you, Agatja Christie, with your upside down, unexpected to the point of shocking novel was not quite opened, but widened and added wisdom and color to my eyes and sight.
Lake Oswego, Oregon
PS From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
To: Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl
From: Ali Hentzel, West Linn
Dear Jerry Spinelli;
Stargirl is one of the best books of all time. Every time I read it, I notice something I didn‘t see before, and I can look at the book with new eyes.
Stargirl was a very interesting character. Imagine naming yourself! Technically, she changes her identity each time she changes her name, but inside she stays the same. I mean, why must we be stuck to a name we were given at birth? Lots of people hate their birthnames.
My town is similar to Stargirl‘s town. People change themselves to fit what they think is pleasing to the public. People who don‘t wear ―popular‖ brands and who don‘t
show interest in ―popular‖ things are tossed aside by self proclaimed ―popular kids.‖ But
the ―losers‖ could be the coolest of them all! They are truly themselves, not caring about popularity and their social status. They are the people who grow up to be somebody. They are like stargirl in that way.
Sometimes the ―popular kids‖ act like themselves, but more times than not, they follow one leader. It seems wonderful to be one of them, but then you waste your childhood making sure you look like the models.
After I read Stargirl, I began to notice every detail of one of the ―popular‖ girls. Every time she moved a muscle it was planned. Her standing positions were more like poses. Even the words that passed her lips were empty and fake. Maybe they meant something inside her head, but once the sounds made contact with the air, they were nothing. They did seem to prove something, however. They seemed to say with a whole new voice, ―Look at me. I‘m popular. You want to be just like me.‖
I ‗m not prejudiced against popularity or anything. If you be yourself, and people like you, that‘s cool. What‘s not cool is pretending to be something you‘re not, even if it makes you popular. I mean, if writing stories, books, etc. were out, you wouldn‘t stop,
I think Stargirl had a big impact on lots of other people too, and I hope people never stop learning from it.
West Linn, Oregon
Level II (7and 8 grade)
To: Joseph Bruchas, Code Talker
From: Junior. Jaime, Gresham
Dear Mr. Joseph Bruchas,
Some books are recommended. Some are picked randomly. And other books just jump out at you. I think your book Code Talker jumped at me. Somehow your book
caught my attention and I‘m glad it did. Before I knew it, I read through 230 pages of one of the best books ever.
I was in my school library when the book fair was there. I searched through many books, but none of them seemed to get my attention. I left for the exit. Then, as I was convinced there was nothing to read, your book caught my eye. I didn‘t know why, but I felt there was something about that book. I looked at it, skimmed through it, then put it down. I thought that it wasn‘t worth the money I had in my wallet. But the book just kept popping up. So I bought it, not knowing why I was spending money on a book I didn‘t seem to like. But that all changed after I read the first few chapters. I couldn‘t put it down.
Code Talker was a truly good book and your descriptive words made me feel as if I were Ned Begay. But that‘s not the only thing I felt.
Though I wasn‘t on Bougainville or Guam, your words led me by the hand to those islands far away from my home. I felt the pain and suffering of the Leathernecks who infiltrated the hostile beaches. I felt the hotness and humidity of the swamps invaded. I felt as if I was in the crossfire of the Japanese. I was Ned Begay. You made sure that I was with you through the journey; from the ranch, to boarding school, and all the way to Iwo Jima and back. You made sure that I was laughing with Smitty and Georgia Boy, yet desperately sending messages through the code invented by the few lucky Navajos. I lived with them, ate with them, breathed with them, and when battle broke out, I was right there, firing weapons and digging foxholes. I learned the way of the Leathernecks. I learned the way of the Japanese. But most of all, I learned the way of the Navajo.
Not only did your book teach me about warfare in World War Two, it reinforced many things that people around me have said. One of the things that stuck out like a sore thumb were your words on page 148. ―Never forget, grandchildren, that we must always
see all other people as human beings, worth of respect. We must never forget, as the Japanese forgot, that all life is holy.‖ Mr. Bruchac, I think that those two lines can apply to almost every problem that has happened, is happening, and will happen. Those words also make me remember what my parents say about equality. They say that no matter how tall you are, or what color skin you have, or if you‘re a boy or girl we‘re all equal. This saying helps me in my everyday life. As was Ned, I too am small for my age. Also, I am a minority. Just as Ned is Native American, I am Mexican. But people really jump on me for my height. I tell my parents about my height, but they say ―it doesn‘t matter, you have a big heart‖. For years I thought they were just saying that. But my older cousins,
friends, and even relatives say that they went through what I am going through. And now
that I am moving on to High School, I see that they have been right. Sometimes short people will be needed, as well as minority.
There was a time when I wanted to change my background. I wanted to be a normal (and tall) American kid. But your book, Mr. Bruchac changed my perspective of looking at things forever. If I had the chance to be tall or change backgrounds, I wouldn‘t. Why? Because‖…we must see all other people as human beings, worthy of respect.‖ Mr. Bruchac, thank you for this book
To: Robert Frost, Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
From: Lyric Tucker, Ashland
Dear Robert Frost,
th It was 4 grade, and we had an assignment. We had to choose a poem that we thought was interesting, red it over and over, and then memorize it. I explained to my teacher that I had no interest in poetry, and asked if I could do something else. He suggested that I check out a few by a writer named Robert Frost, especially his favorite, ―Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening‖. I went home that day and typed into the
Internet; it came up, and I read it. Something happened in that moment. I was there. I became the horse. Standing by the frozen lake, wondering where to go next. I like it so much, that I printed it out and read it, over and over and over until there was so much good writing in my head that I felt like I was sky diving, letting the words surround me as I flew down the page. I memorized it, and was very happy about how interested I was by this writing style. Your work inspired me to pay attention to writing, so I could work on developing different styles and techniques. Something that‘s really magical about this poem, is that as I read it, pictures come up in my head, painting a place where I can go anytime I want. Pas the moon, beyond the start, into my imagination, where I can do or say or think all to myself.
This poem has taught me two main things: One: don‘t just assume things. Take time to look over them more than a glance. Like me, I assumed poetry had nothing in it, nothing useful, and was a waste of time, until I found this poem. It changed my mind completely. Two: poetry can be really fun and get you to think out of the box. Before I read this, I always stayed inside a little tiny box in my imagination, and now I can go beyond, into a magical place that can‘t even be explained. Poetry can help you use your imagination, and make it fly. Even if you‘re ot artistic on paper, your imagination is your whole canvas. It helps you create pictures and thoughts you can‘t physically do. Thank
you so much for helping me to see these things. My life is truly different with poetry in it, especially yours.
To: Jane Austin, Pride and Prejudice
From: Elizabeth Harbaugh, Corvallis
Dear Jane Austin,
I can‘t say that I‘ve ever been in love. As a middle school girl, I hear that word uttered often, from my peers, but I never take it seriously. How are we supposed to know what real love is, when our relationships consist of walking down the hall holding hands? No one around me seems to realize that we have our whole lives to say those three strong words to people when we actually mean it; instead they say it as often as they can to the partner that they have that week.
Pride and Prejudice didn‘t jump into my arms, or attract me like a magnet; I used my own hands to open it, it didn‘t present itself to me. As a little girl in a small town, my world consisted of Disney movies, the New Morning Bakery, and books. My little eyes felt as though I was surrounded by them, their pages full with words I didn‘t understand. I never could get my mind off the books; even as I sat on my fathers lap struggling with colorful 10 page ones about Max and his kite. Each book that I have read since those days has stayed with me, collecting in my brain, creating ideas that turn into sentences, then pages.
The true mind of love came out within the pages of this novel. Being a teenage girl, I saw the love story that I craved within the book, dancing along the pages in words that formed art, this art pleasing the side of my soul that is fixed on becoming a writer. From this book, I didn‘t find myself hoping to cure world hunger, or wishing for a love
like the one that Elizabeth had, but rather longing to write and describe feelings as you had, to touch the heart of a reader.
Each character in this book had true feelings and issues, some that would never get resolved, real issues, real flaws, real lives that can be seen everyday. Through my feelings for my father, who died in the past year, I can see Mr. Bennet, wanting his daughters to grow up happy and in love, but wondering if he will ever see his little girls as his own again before his time for passing comes. The truth that lies within his feelings is that this problem will never have a solution. I have come to know that many forms of hate can be based on love, and visa-versa. Simply saying ―I love you,‖ doesn‘t mean that
you do; rather the picture of Elizabeth shows love without words, the words on the page
embodying a girl with tears on the rims of her eyes, unsure of the feelings that her heart holds.
The feelings that are expressed on these pages are the ones that I want to have the ability to write, and by reading this book, I feel that this ability will be open to me. I have collected styles of writing from each book that I have read, and with this one I believe I have collected the most talent, the most inspiration. Although I cannot change how my friends feel about love, I can be sure that as time goes on they may find inspiration like this that shows the true meaning of the words that they use so loosely. In turn, I can assure myself that one day, girls that hold the word love on the tip of their tongue may read a piece of writing from my pen, and discover the same ideas I‘ve found.
Level III (9-12 grade)
Book Title: The BFG
Author: Roald Dahl
From: Keeley Grace Tillotson, Tualatin
Dear Roald Dahl,
The first book of yours that I read was The BFG, when I was 8. The moment I
started reading about Sophie and the Big Friendly Giant, I was entranced. Like any other child who read the book, I, too, wanted to catch dreams in jars and visit the Queen of England. I checked the book out from the library countless times; loving it more each time I read it. So, when I saw a tattered but sturdy hardback copy of The BFG at my
library book sale for ten cents, my mother paid the dime and I hugged the book to my chest the whole car ride home. I read it through myself time after time, and then one day I started reading it to my little sister, McKinna. We sat in the hollow between my headboard and my bed with a flashlight, sitting on pillows. To my delight, she loved The
BFG as much as I did. Most spare moments we would be in there, reading. I loved reading aloud, loved looking at McKinna‘s face as she heard the same words I had read a year earlier, succumbing to the magic that children all over the world already had. We looked at Quentin Blake‘s illustrations, marveling at the BFG‘s huge ears and studying
his queer laced-up shoes, (and noticing with delight that, in your photo in the back, you were wearing the same shoes). WE were almost disappointed when the BFG and Sophie