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Letters About Literature 2018

2018 Winner - New Hampshire, Level I

Dear Sara Pennypacker,
"If you love somebody, you have to let them go to where they belong." This phrase I said over and over again after reading your book Pax. I learned lessons all the way from Pax to Peter to Vola to Gray. While I was reading Pax, my grandma was slowly dying from cancer. Your book taught me that when you fight so hard for a person you love, you may have to let them go to a better world with only peace. I was like Peter and my grandma was like Pax. And we were inseparable.
My grandma would always smell like flowers from her gardening. While she would garden, I played in her backyard. When she finished, we go inside to scrapbook. I loved this whenever I went to her house. I'm not just saying this... but I was probably her favorite because she could teach me things that she couldn't teach my other cousins.
When I started reading your book, I wasn't giving your book a shot because at the time my grandma was in the hospital. I wouldn't admit it, but I would cry in my sleep and hope that she would survive even though I already knew the truth. When I went to visit my grandma, I would take my book with me to the hospital and would read just a tiny bit at a time. Eventually my grandma got transported back to her house, and we visited her every weekend. On my way to her house, I would read your book. Each time I read, I was caught more into your book. And everytime I read your book I was kept thinking of what I would do without my grandma. I would probably be like Peter and do anything to get his loved one back.
I was at my grandma's house when she died. When this happened I ran into the guest room and watched TV. While I was watching, I was wondering what I was going to do without my grandma. As the oldest granddaughter on my Dad's side, I needed to be mature. Although I knew I could still cry. When I was thinking about this, I don't know why, but I immediately thought of Pax. I thought of how Peter felt when he let Pax go at the end. I could very much relate myself to Peter. I would break my foot to bring my grandma back. I would stay with a lady from the war for my grandma to laugh again. And I would walk 300 miles to have her walk again.
So when I got home, I finished your book. When I finished it, I didn't think of it as just a book, I thought about it in terms of how books touch lives. In one place you could celebrate the birth of a child. In another, you could mourn the loss of a beloved relative. Only you can decide to let a loved one go completely and you can let them go to where they belong. I chose to let her go to where she belonged. Your book has taught me a very valuable life lesson. Now a days, whenever I think of my grandma, I thing of your book, and how it changed me and the way I look at life and death. Now I know that my grandma is in the right place thanks to you and your book, Pax.
Julianna Kajka, grade 5

2018 Winner - New Hampshire, Level II

November 14, 2017
Dear Ben Mikaelsen.
In third grade I was diagnosed with excessive anxiety and separation anxiety. My separation anxiety was developed because my parents split up when I was young, which grew into excessive anxiety. It got to the point where I would refuse to go to school. I loved learning but, I was just so overwhelmed by the atmosphere of school, that I would shut down. It wasn't until seventh grade when I read your book. After reading Touching Spirit Bear, it let me see from a new perspective.
As I was reading your book I began to relate to Cole, and interpret the situations in a different ways. I don't have the dramatic anger issues that Cole has, but I can relate tot he ways he represses his anger. For instance, when Cole goes to the island to isolate himself fromt he world. It taught me that whenever I'm in an area or situation that I'm not comfortable in, I should simply remove myself from it. This has worked to decrease my anxiety tremendously, and it's almost a superpower to me. I use it in classrooms, in public places, and even in my own home.
In school I get anxious over the smallest things, like if I'm not sitting in the back row of the class, I feel like I'm in the spotlight and all eyes are on me, and I can't focus on anything. On timed computer tests, I end up worrying, second guessing myself, and next thing you know I failed the test. After Cole woke up and realized that Circle Justice was only there to help, and he fixed everything on the island that he destroyed; he began to respect and rely on Edwin and Garvey. That was when I woke up and realized that I have amazing teachers who will do anything they can to help me feel okay in school, and who are willing to make adjustments to suit my needs. After I read this I talked to my parents so we could request a parent teacher conference. My teachers understood completely and now in every class I sit in the back room, and I have extra time on all tests.
Even after all that, I would still get worked up by just the atmosphere of school. Sometimes I would just worry about having an anxiety attach that I woudl have an anxiety attack over anxiety. Cole released his anger by soaking in the frigid water, and carving wood. That's when I found out I had a release too. I get calm when I draw, read, and when I listen to music. So whenever I started to get worried, I woudl block the worlkd out with my music and draw, or read. In itelf music, drawing, and reading has become like my therapy.
When I finished your book I was shocked. I realized how much I could change if I just reach out to people. As I continue the journey of my life, I will always have anxiety, but I've learned to toss worries away becasue they only make people suffer twice, so if I have a problem I'll just face it knowing that I can overcome it. It's nice to accomplish things so I can say it was hard, but I did that, or I got through that. Thanks to you for opening my eyes, I've grown in so many ways since seventh grade, and learned about myself too.
Brianna Leo

2018 Winner - New Hampshire, Level III

Dear Stephen Chbosky,
As a rather slow reader I don't often find the time to read a certain book more than once, but The Perks of Being a Wallflower has certainly been an exception for me. Every time I pick up the beaten up old book I get something new out of it.
When I first read it in seventh grade I loved it, but I'm atually not sure why because as a relatively sheltered 13 year old with not a care in the world, I'm sure I didn't truly understand what a lot of the book was about. At some point in 8th grade though I got hit with a deep depression. Between my dad moving out, the new financial strain of my parents paying two rents instead of one, and the need I felt to hide how I was actually feeling from my mom so I wouldn't add to her troubles, I was overwhelmed with emotions. After countless nights full of muffled sobs into my pillow, I rediscovered your book.
This second time that I read it I felt like I was diving into a book that I had never laid eyes on before. I connected to Charlie on such a personal level. I related to how he always tried to imagine what was going on in other people's lives and understand why people do the things they do. I know that on the outside I seemed like your average happy eighth grader, and it always made me wonder what other people were secretly going through in their lives. It made me more empathetic and curious like Charlie. He also struggled with depression, and I think that the traumatic experiences that he wnt through made him more empathetic to other people going through tough times, as it also did to me. I realized that I looked at things a lot differently when it was my life that was about to be torn apart.
I think that maybe we can never really eleiminate our natural instinct to judge other people, but out of all the anti-bullying assemblies I've sat through, all the times I've been old not to judge another person until you walk in their shoes, and all the quotes about acceptance and empathy I've read, your book has by far made the biggest impression and taught me this lesson the best.
Stephanie Chambers

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