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Letters About Literature: Missouri: 2015--Level 2


2015--Level 2

Level 2--1st Place

Dear Alan Gratz,

   I got home from school one day and took off my shoes and backpack and plopped down on the couch ready to relax a little. Then I heard my mom yell somewhere in the house, “Bradley, go put some clothes in the washing machine and turn it on!” I went and did just that, and then sat back down on the couch. Thirty seconds later I heard my mom yell, “Bradley, go unload the dishwasher and then do your homework!” I rolled my eyes and did as I was told. I was mad at my mom for not letting me have any free time after a long and boring day of school. I found myself thinking, if only my mom wasn’t here, I wouldn’t have to do any chores. There were also times when I would get mad at my siblings or have a bad day at school, and wished they were out of my life. Then I read your book, Prisoner B-3087.

   In your book, Yanek is a boy living in Krakow, Poland as a Jew during World War II, and he loses everything that he loves. He was then sent to one unbearable concentration camp to the next. While reading I realized that everything that I loved in my life I needed. I needed my mom and dad to help me grow up and take care of me. I needed my siblings to laugh with, have fun with, and to challenge me. I needed to go to school so I could learn, go to college, and make a living. I needed friends to bond with and to cheer me up when I was feeling down. I also needed other things like the school bus to pick me up and drop me off at school and at home. I needed grocery stores to get food so I wouldn’t be hungry. Yanek said in the book, “If I had known what the next six years of my life were going to be like, I would have eaten more. I wouldn’t have complained about brushing my teeth, or taking a bath, or going to bed at eight o’clock every night. I would have played more. Laughed more. I would have hugged my parents and told them I loved them.” Yanek was saying that he wished he would have been more appreciative of the things he had, before they were all taken away from him. It made me feel guilty. It made me want to be more grateful for everything that I have.

   Some days, Yanek felt brave and strong, and knew that he could survive the concentration camps. On other days, he was hungry, tired, sad, and ready to die. He didn’t have the will to go on any longer. There are many days that I have had that don’t go so well. On those days, I just want to get away from it all. Somehow, float away and let everything fix itself. That never happens though. After reading about Yanek’s struggle of having to go through ten concentration camps, having to face death every day, I realized that my bad days were nothing compared to Yanek’s days in the camps. All that happened to me was that I embarrassed myself, fell asleep in class, had loads of homework, or got into a fight with a friend. I never had to do back breaking work, nearly starve to death, or be beaten. I realized that my bad days aren’t that bad, and that there is always tomorrow, and the day after that. Those days could be better, but certainly not as worse being in a concentration camp.

   Thank you for writing the book, Prisoner B-3087, and thank you for telling Yanek’s story. Now, whenever I am mad at my mom or dad, or my brother and sister, I stop and think about what life would be like without them, and instantly forgive them. Also, if I am ever having a bad day, I stop and tell myself, it could be worse. Tomorrow could be better.


Bradley, Kerr, 7th Grade

Level 2--2nd Place

Carlo Giannotti
471 North Woods Mill Road
Chesterfield, MO. 63017

Dear Sharon M. Draper,

     "Out of My Mind" tore down everything I thought I had known about people with special
needs. You taught me from the unique perspective of a child my age with special needs, and the
troubles and tribulations that she and other children with special needs face on a daily basis.
Reading this astounding book, I learned that even the smallest things that I and many others
don't think twice about are harder than pushing a mountain for these people. I also learned how
cruelly they are treated by their peers, and how important even a single true friend is.

     This book has made it infinitely clearer how difficult life is for people with any type of
special needs is, which has greatly increased my awareness of how much a small act of
kindness means to them.

     I read this book right before switching from a private to a public school, and the public
school system I entered had a large number of special needs children, whereas the private
school I had previously attended only had a small handful. It was extremely helpful and a true
eye-opener to the lives of special needs children that attend schools with a majority of
non-special needs kids.

     I cannot thank you enough for writing this, and I'm overjoyed that I found this book. Just
by asking a good friend for book recommendations, she told me about this amazing book. She
explained a little about the interesting premise, and the moment I started reading I was hooked.

     To this day, whenever I am having struggles, academic or not, I remember how much
harder Melody's were, and her awe-inspiring perseverance comes to me and I am able to
overcome my problems. For example, the way she is so extremely smart, but can't write or
speak so most people don't bother to look at her twice, unless out of sympathy. She gets
frustrated, but never lashes out. I apply this to my life in a more metaphorical way, because
when I have an idea or thought that might be able to help people, and they don't bother truly
considering it because I'm "not old enough." I've learned through Melody to let go, and forgive.
The way her brave spirit can shine through even the darkest and most frustrating times always
continues to give me hope, and I've realized that no matter how many times people don't believe
in you, then you have that many more reasons to show them how much you can do .

.   Through the story, I came to feel a true connection with Melody, from the hiqhs to the
lows, the good and the bad, and I've come to truly believe in a happy ending. I know that no
matter how rough my life has been, or how hard it will be, If Melody can beat her impossible
struggles, then so can I.

     Thank you Ms. Draper, for showing me that no mountain is unclimbable, that no ocean is
unswimmable, and that you can fly if you simply learn to spread your wings. For Melody,
spreading her wings was hard when everyone tried to keep them closed, and I can now see that
there is a happy ending if you make it so.

Sincerely, Carlo Giannotti


Level 2--3rd Place

Hailey Foust
471 N. Woods Mill Road
Chesterfield, MO 63146

Dear Mrs. Lowry,

     Your book The Giver changed how I viewed the world in a pretty dramatic way. I've
always had plenty, and never really had any significant need for all the necessities in life. I grew
up in a fairly sheltered environment, and I knew about some of the bad things in the world, but I
never had a very deep understanding of them. All the parts of the book where Jonas received a
new memory and his reactions to them caused me to see the world in a new light, the good and
the bad.

     Every time Jonas got a new memory, his reactions were almost childlike in the sense
that he had never felt the things people feel on a daily basis. It was very refreshing, getting to
see the how someone never exposed to the joys and sorrows of life responded to them. It
helped me realize just how much we take the pleasures in life for granted. I'm used to feeling
happy or content for at least a little while every day, but I had never taken a moment to step
back and think about what it would be like not to have that every day, and not take it for granted.

     The same goes for the opposite. I grew up around the knowledge that bad things
happen every day. People die, people kill, people steal, etc. I just never thought about it in
depth. How Jonas reacted made me step back and think. He had never been exposed to war,
death, sickness, sorrow, hunger, or any other sufferings that occur on a daily basis for humanity.
He had a totally objective opinion on these things. He responded with horror and confusion, and
that caused me to have a better understanding of just how terrible some of the things humans
have done are. I can't even remember my reaction the first time I ever heard about a tragedy,
that's how long these things have been an influence in my life.

     Sometimes I think I have a pretty rough life. I was bullied a little bit when I was younger,
but never too badly, just excluded from everything. I thought it was the end of the world, but
looking back, I realize it was never a big deal. Some people have it much worse than I ever
have, and this book definitely helped me acknowledge that. Nowadays, whenever I hear about
bad things happening in the world, I have a much stronger reaction. I'm still distant from these
things, considering I have never had any iife-changing things happen to me, but not as distant
as I Was in the past. I'm much better at seeing things from the victim's point of-view, and I have
a lot more sympathy for people placed in difficult situations. It's helped in everyday life as well.
I've become a lot more considerate, and at the very least, I want to try to change things. It
doesn't have to be anything huge, just something little. Help people in school who bully have a
bit more empathy, and stop hurting others. Donate money to a charity. Attempt to comfort
people I see who are suffering. Things I wouldn't have given a second thought about if I never
read The Giver.

     Every once in awhile, it's a good idea to stop and try to think about the world like Jonas
did. Maybe to give ourselves some motivation to get through the day, or to help ourselves think
in depth about our actions, and what effect they might be having on our surroundings. Even just
to take a break from all the ideas and concepts society has drilled into our brain - this is ok, we
accept this, but this must never be done - and form our own. If more people took time to do this,
even just occasionally, I think the world would have the potential of being a much better place,
filled with kinder people, and less judgement. A place where people don't just assume
everything, but actually take the time to get to know someone, instead of just marking them as a
certain kind of person based on what they observe on the outside. A place with no conflict, no
wars, no killing, just peace. Sadly I realize this is unrealistic, that the whole world isn't about to
shift into this perfect concept, but it's a nice dream. I can still hope that the world will become
more like this.

     Even though I still have my everyday complaints about the little things - not enough food,
no hot water, can't get comfortable at night, bored out of my mind, etc. - I now realize how
insignificant they are. I like to try at least a few times a day to take a step back from all my
issues, and just appreciate how easy my life is. The Giver helped me grow to be a better
person, and I would Iike to thank you for putting this wonderful book into the world.

Hailey Foust