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>Letters About Literature

2006 Winner - New Hampshire, Level I

Dear Natalie Babbitt,

Before I read your book, The Search for Delicious, if Gaylen asked me to choose the food I believed to be the most delicious, I would have chosen chocolate or chicken noodle soup. And, I imagine that people all around the world would choose foods from their own culture. Maybe Indians would choose curries and maybe the Japanese would choose sushi. But, I never would have guessed that the search for the definition of "delicious" would be so controversial; that it would even start a war. Reading your book Search for Delicious, changed the way I thought about the word "delicious."

I realized that no matter what food I chose, someone somewhere would disapprove of my choice. If I classified a pastry or a cake as "delicious," all those who do not like those foods would not agree with me. If I decided that vegetables or fruits were "delicious," the pastry people would argue with me. I definitely would not consider rotten vegetables to be "delicious," but maybe they are some odd kind of delicacy, somewhere far away. If I picked rotten vegetables to be "delicious," most people would probably throw a lot of them at me.

However, these arguments are only for those people who have food. They have enough food so that they can argue about what they think are the most tasty and appetizing foods. The Prime Minister said, "Delicious is a drink of water when you're very, very thirsty." After I finished your book, I understood that if someone is thirsty or hungry, they would think that the most "delicious" food is whatever is available. After Hurricane Katrina, people in New Orleans did not worry about finding their favorite foods, they just wanted food and some were even willing to fight about it.

Now I would still pick chocolate or chicken noodle soup, but I am more aware that I should be grateful that I am able to have a choice. And, I feel more strongly that people who do not have food should not just have the basics, but should also be given sweets to help them get through hard times.

Sincerely,
Izzy Starr

2006 New Hampshire Winner - Level II

Dear Jenni Schaefer,

I'm not really sure how it started, but I remember looking in the mirror one day and hating what I saw. I saw an imperfect body looking back at me. As a runner, I thought that if I was thinner, I would be faster. So in January, 2005, I began to starve myself, and continued through June. But it didn't completely stop there. By then my pants barely held onto my bony hips, and my shirts hung loosely around my curled in shoulders. My parents were worried, yet I denied everything. My mom finally confronted me about how thin I was getting and how little I was eating, so I gave in.

Once I started talking, I couldn't stop. I cried, and cried. I cried for the pain I had gone through, and I cried out of relief, because I knew that my pain was going to end. I talked about how I thought I would be noticed if I was thin. I talked about how this voice inside my head told me what to do, and I never dared to disobey. I thought that the voice would bring me to a point in life where I would always be happy, because I was thin. I told my mom everything, and I finally realized that I was scared of what I was doing to myself. I was scared of the voice inside my head. I wanted to stop letting it control me. I know my mom didn't really understand what I was going through at the time, but she really tried. And I knew that she was someone I could count on to help me.

Your book, Life Without Ed, helped me through a really hard time in my life. My year long battle with anorexia was difficult and painful. You helped me separate myself from my eating disorder. I learned like you did to call this monster Ed, using the acronym for "eating disorder," E.D.. It helped me realize that it wasn't me beating myself up over food. It was Ed. Sometimes I wish I had never admitted to my parents that I was starving myself to become thin. But I immediately recognized that voice as Ed's. After I had established that, I began to see what kind of person I really was. I realized I wasn't the person whose only goal was to become emaciated. I wanted to live, and Ed wanted me to starve myself to death. I want to become an Olympic runner, and I know that he wouldn't make that possible.

Things became better, but very slowly. I would start eating again, then Ed would pop in his two cents, and all of a sudden he was in charge. He always promised me that I would be happy once I was thin, but all I would be was irritable, cold, and sad. I was cold ALL THE TIME. I couldn't focus well either. Just reading a book, I would start a paragraph, read a couple of sentences, and then my mind would slip away. Then I would have to read those same sentences over again.

I hated that life. I hated being controlled by Ed. So that's why I read your book, as a recommendation from my therapist. It changed my life so much, and it changed the way I look at myself now. I think that if I hadn't read it, I wouldn't believe the things my doctors told me. All I would be in is denial. And all that Ed has done is deny me the happiness of living. You helped me divorce him after the months we were married, and I want to thank you for that. Now I know that I'm not the only teenage girl who suffers from this horrible eating disorder.

I am very far into recovery, and can't see going back to that monster you and I call Ed. You have helped me leave the most controlling and abusive person I've ever known. No teenage or grownup woman deserves to be cheated out of life. Since I've declared my independence from my eating disorder, I have had so many dreams that I know I wouldn't be able to achieve if Ed was still in charge of my life.

Thank you.
Sincerely,
Kylee Drugan-Eppich

2006 New Hampshire Winner - Level III

Dear Mr. Rowland Sill,

Your poem "Opportunity" is a great poem. It inspired me in many ways. It helped me realize that I must work hard in everything I do and to use all that I have to reach my goals. The first time I ever heard your poem I was in the car with my grandfather coming home from a football practice. I enjoyed playing freshman football but was not planning on playing the following year. Sophomore football is very time consuming because you have to dress for J.V. games, varsity games and sophomore games. The sophomore team only plays about 10 games. I didn't want to spend so much time on football.

My grandfather was very disappointed and frustrated with my decision. He felt that I was playing well as a starting fullback and that I should definitely continue into the following season. He recited your poem "Opportunity" to me. He knew it by heart. He pointed out to me how many kids had quit the team early on in the season. I realized the similarity that quitting was like the person in your poem who snaps and flings his sword and lowering creeps away. He may have been illustrating the point that I have picked up the broken sword that my teammates had snapped and flung, like the prince in your poem. I realize that I have the opportunity, even though I am tired, worn, and weaponless, I can snatch the broken sword and prevail.

Your poem opened my eyes and helped me to see my strengths in a different light.  I am a very determined person when times are tough. My first sport is wrestling and I never give up. I hadn't put this strength to work for me in this situation and in other times in my life. I am not a quitter and I'm not going to start to be one now. I will do my best and continue along the path rather than give up and move on to something else.

The fact that my grandfather knew this poem by heart and shared it with me at this time was very special to me. I know he always wants the very best for me. My grandfather always gives me good advice. So because of your poem and the respect I have for my grandfather I will probably continue with football next year. I will also be more aware of where my strengths lie and continue to push myself to be the best I can be.

Sincerely,
Stephen Therrien

Read the full text of "Opportunity" by Rowland Sill.

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