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> Letters About Literature

2009 Winner - New Hampshire, Level I

Dear Lois Lowry,

I'm writing this letter to tell you that after reading your book, Number The Stars, I realized how important it is to stand up for people who appear to be different whether they are a different skin color or a different type of religion. Your book shows that even if people are treated differently, they are just like you and me.

I used to dance 3 years ago, and there was a Jewish girl named Ashley who danced with me. One day we had dance class and she left early to go out to eat, and I stayed later for a class for the more advanced dancers. When I was done for the night, I went into the locker room and I looked at her locker. I noticed that there was vandalism all over it that said, "Go back from where you came from," and other rude remarks. The next day, when Ashley came in, she saw her locker. I had told her that I didn't know who had done it. She said that it was fine because she was quitting. When she said that, I started crying. She was my best friend, and it was so hard to watch her walk out the door. Once I read your book, it inspired me to stand up for people who get in that kind of trouble because of their religion or their color.

I've experienced another situation like Ashley's only it is about skin color. The people who went to my dance school were very judgmental. One day I was going to the bathroom and on my way back I heard someone call my friend Emily the "N" word. That is only because she is black. When I got back to class, I told the teacher what I heard. Nobody found out who said it. So I stood up for her and asked everybody in our class and everybody in the room next to us. Your book has taught me that people can be judgmental and cruel to people who are different from them.

Before I read your book, I would never stand up for people because I was so shy, and I would also be afraid of what people would think of me. Now I have much more courage, so keep on writing to inspire many other readers to think about the way they treat all people.

Peyton Plante

2009 Winner - New Hampshire, Level II

Dear Mr. Allen Say,

My parents told me I was 18 months old when I was adopted from the Philippine islands. They remembered how the nuns at my orphanage were very happy that I would soon have a family. They could recall signing the paperwork and making the twenty-three hour trek back to America with me screaming on my dad's lap. Even though I didn't remember anything, my parents told me that all my relatives were anxiously waiting at the airport. They were all excited for me to become a part of the Dion family.

The place I live in now is very different from where I was born. For the past 12 years, instead of the warmth of one hundred degree weather, I was raised in the cold of New England winters and amongst their changing leaves of autumn. I never really had a problem with my adoption, I was just happy that I am living in a safe, happy environment with a family who loved and cared for me. I had all I needed right here.

But, as I grew older and wiser over the years, I began to notice something. I would see it all the time. I spotted it at grocery stores, my school, the post office, even at church. I was different. I would see families of four or five with children who looked exactly like their parents. They would have the same eyes, nose, even hair. I could even hear it too. "You look so much like your father. You have your mother's eyes." I didn't, I was different. I could never have my father's eyes or hands. I could never be like them.

I started looking at my parents differently. Even though they were my mother and father, they didn't look like me. I loved them and I know that they loved and cared for me, it was just different for me. So, as time progressed, I felt sad and different. I began asking questions about my real mom and dad. Even though I looked fine on the outside, inside I felt alone. Why didn't my real parents want me? Why did they give me to these two strangers?

It wasn't until I found a picture book wedged in my bookcase. It was Allison, a gift from my aunt for my third Christmas. For the next fifteen minutes, I sat there and read it right through, my eyes widening in realization. This book almost described me. This was almost my story. I felt so much like Allison and how she felt when she saw how different she was from her parents. Just like me, she was angry and confused as to why she was so different. This was me, I was Allison.

This book helped me realize that even thought I'm different from my parents, we are all a family that cherishes each other very much. It doesn't matter if we are different; what matters is that we are all living in one home, under one affectionate roof, together. My parents were open to answering all the questions I had and soon, I became more understanding about adoption.

I am happier now that I realize that everything that has been happening to me was so I was safe and happy. This book helped me open my eyes to my adoption. So, I'm really just trying to say thanks to you Mr. Say.

Thank you for telling me that I'm here in this new home because it’s where I am loved, and where I belong.

Merisa Dion

2009 Winner - New Hampshire, Level III

Dear Martha Tod Dudman,

Augusta Gone affected me in a way I never thought a book could. It was like a book about my life, although it was more severe and intense. So obviously, I do not get along with my mother very well. This book really opened my eyes to my relationship with her.

Although the things Augusta does are very drastic and something I would never do, I still learned a lot from this book and I connected with her. The way that Augusta felt is similar to a feeling I've felt more times than I can count. How the mother felt is what hit me the most though. Through all the arguments I've had with my mother, I've never once thought about her feelings on the situation, our relationship, I always figured since she kept arguing with me, she felt the same way, it was better if we weren't close.

Throughout the book I got to know the mother as well as I got to know Augusta. Seeing how it affected the mother made me think of my mother's feelings. The mother was devastated, it seemed like there was nothing she could do to mend the relationship with her daughter. Then it hit me. When a mother dreams of having a daughter, she dreams of a close knit relationship. Realizing their daughter wants nothing to do with them absolutely crushes them.

For the first time, I realized what I was doing to my mother, the pain I was putting her through. I never did exactly what August did, but I caused the pain to my mother she cause to her mother in other ways. I knew my mom didn't like the fighting, but I didn't know it affected her this much and in this way. My attitude truthfully affects the other people in my life. My fighting with my mother also took a toll on my father and my brother. I didn't want to hurt all these people around me, the people I loved the most.

I also learned a lot about myself and it was surprising. I found out the power I had over my mother's feelings, how much I took advantage of it, and how awful I was. At an age of only twelve when I read this, I was scared to think that in just three or four year I could be just like Augusta. I knew I didn't want to be that way. If my relationship with my mother continued as it was, I would eventually end up just like her.

My mother and I don't have a picture perfect relationship now, but it's a lot better than it was. And I owe it all to this book and it hit me hard. I woke up and recognized I needed to change something so I wouldn't become Augusta. Because of what it did for me, it's become one of my very favorite books. I've read it again and again and it still surprises me how much I can connect to it and how much I love it. It's like my everyday life, or what used to be my everyday life.

Heather Coen

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