Level 2--1st Place
Dear James Carville,
When I was a little girl, my grandmother would read to me every night, everyday,
anytime it was appropriate really. We read anything, from Dr. Seuss, to the comics in the
Sunday paper. There was one book that was read more often than not, Lu and the
Swamp Ghost. The book hardly ever left my side. It accompanied my on road trips to the
lake, where my grandma would act out the parts, playing in the bushes and jumping from
the shadows. We even listened to the audio book when the physical book couldn't make
the journey with us. It was our book. I remember one particular incident, where I almost
left Lu on the plane ride back from California. That would have been awful. But, my
grandmother was there to save the day, sweeping the book out of the aircraft's seat
before I even noticed it was there.
When my grandmother first got sick, we thought it was just a strange flu. We
continued to read. By this time I had learned to read. If I wanted to I could have read the
book by myself, but I didn't. My grandmother's own love of reading had affected me so
greatly, it was like she had installed that trait in me herself.
When my grandmother's condition worsened, we knew something was wrong. Testing, testing,
and more testing occurred over the next few weeks. Within the next month, we knew what was wrong.
In April of 2009 my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer.
I suppose I used reading as a coping method, it was the only thing I could do to
relieve stress from my out of control life. As my grandmother's condition worsened, the
less I saw her, and the less I saw the familiar pages of Lu and the Swamp Ghost.
Just when it seemed things were on a roller coaster only going down, we started the
climb upwards. Scans, upon scans were done, and they all came back with one thing;
the cancer in my grandmother's abdomen had disappeared. There would be no more
chemotherapy, no more doctor appointments every week. We had finally brought
normalcy back into our lives. We began to read again. We did not get to read for long.
Within the next few months the cancer was back and was worse than before. Each
day my grandmother grew weaker and weaker. It got to the point where I was frightened
to visit, in fear of taking too much of the little energy she had. Looking back on those
precious weekends, when I could have stayed, I wish I had.
By now I was in fifth grade. I had read hundreds of books, and what had started my
love of reading, was Lu and the Swamp Ghost and my grandmother.
One day my grandmother told me that I should take Lu and the Swamp Ghost home
with me. I knew what this meant. In all the years that I had spent reading Lu and the
Swamp Ghost, not once had the book left my grandmother's house.
On April 25, 2013 my grandmother passed away. Cancer killed her. My grandmother
will never get to see my accomplishments. She won't see me graduate. She won't be
able to attend my wedding. Yet, each and everyday, I know she's with me. Whenever I
sit down to read a new book, or reread an old one, she's there. I can't put it into words.
It's like having someone watching you, not in a strange way, but like they're perfectly
content watching you do something you love, for me that's reading.
I can't thank you enough for writing Lu and the Swamp Ghost, it's helped me through
some pretty rough times. I'm glad to say that even now Lu and the Swamp Ghost has a
spot on my bookshelf.
Level 2--2nd Place
Dear Steve Covey,
I read your book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens 2 years ago for my 5th grade
MOSAICS class. I was born into a Christian family, so naturally my goal in life was to reflect who
we believe our savior is, Jesus Christ, and to be reunited with him in heaven when we die. Now I
knew that we had to be good people, be nice, you know, get good grades, don't say bad words,
don't take things that don't belong to you, blah, blah, blah. But I never lived off of a stable moral.
I knew that gossiping was bad, but why? Why didn't we procrastinate, it is a lot easier. Why did
we have to be honest? What was the key to life? How did you change people and get on their
good side? I knew it was bad to lie, I believed that, I even reminded people not to lie sometimes.
But during those rough days, I did it anyway, lying a little can't hurt, right? To be honest, lying
wasn't even a big problem for me. Surprisingly, I actually didn't like to lie. Even to this day, guilt
is probably is one of my top ten worst fears. I just can't live with guilt, it gnaws at me until I have
to confess and have the ever growing weight lifted off my shoulders. So why did I even bother to
be a good kid? Christianity teaches that if you sin, (or break a rule in the bible, a book of
guidelines and historical events that us Christians live our life off of) you will be forgiven. So I
always tried not to do all these bad things, but you know, I would let one slide once and awhile.
The Bible just seemed alike set of rules to follow. Then I read your book, and it broke down the
logic behind the rules that I knew I shouldn't have broken.
In your book you teach us the 7 habits that lead to success for teens; but as I was
reading I realized that some of these concepts also apply to people of all ages. Now you know
how they say to not judge a book by it's cover right? Well, when I first picked up your book, I
scanned the cover, looked at the title, checked out the book tease, and the first thing that came
to my mind was dull. There wasn't a lot on the cover, a big bold title in formal font displayed
across the middle, white and yellow print on a blue and red background with not many
illustrations either. This book is a guide, I thought, a set of rules to follow, and my expectations
weren't very high for it.
I flipped to the page right after the table of contents, and there was a riddle. One line
from the first paragraph said "I am your greatest helper or heaviest burden." Now this confused
me a lot at first (as did the rest of the riddle), how can this being, or object, be one thing and
then be the total opposite? I flipped the page to reveal the answer and all the page said was
three words, "I am Habit." I turned back to the riddle, and I realized that everything was true, the
riddle depicted habit as a person, but habits can be trained to do certain ,things, habits can
break you down, make you a failure, lead you to success, and can it be managed. This riddle
opened my eyes, and helped me realized how important habits are. This puzzle was the spark
to the my growing flame of interest for this book, this riddle was so true and clever that I
wondered why this riddle wasn't more well known and taught. As I continued to read your book,
I started to reflect on how some of the bad habits you mentioned in your book were showing up
in my life. I noticed things that I did without even thinking about it. Some lines in your book made
me realize how a person's habits can reveal so much about a person's character and the
environment they grow up in.
I discovered how sometimes to become successful, you have to take the hard way that
most people don't take, as said by poet Robert Frost, "Two roads diverged in the wood, and I--I
took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." So sometimes when I didn't
want to come in at lunch to study for a test at school, or stay after school to do homework, I did
it anyway because I knew I was going to benefit later from it.
Most of all, the way your book highlights in the importance of listening really stood out to
me. Even though I haven't been in one of those situations before where a friend wants to talk
about something personal. When I am having trouble with school, friends, or just have a
problem, alii want is someone to listen to me- not to give me too much advice, judge me in the
back of their minds, or just plain ignore me. What you say is so true when you point out that
many people space out, pretend to listen, and listen selectively when someone is trying to talk
to them. I realized that some of these habits also apply to me too. Sometimes when my mom is
trying to talk to me, I hear her, but I don't process what she's saying so I'm "spacing out" as you
put it in your book, then I have to re-ask her what she said before and waste her time along with
mine. I'm not necessarily saying the other bad listening habits don't apply to me, but it's
surprising that it took reading this whole entire section for it to register to me how important
listening really is.
Finishing your book, I felt like I could see the whole picture, now, even after two years,
my life has been greatly affected by some of the lessons you teach in your book. Even now,
when I went back and re-read parts of your book to write this letter, I'm still learning new
approaches to situations, concepts, and life lessons. I can now actually apply all of these rules
that appear in the bible to my life because I know how it fits in the gears of life. For example, not
gossiping can lead to better relationships, better relationships can lead to more opportunities to
become a better person, more opportunities to become a better person can lead to higher
expectations, and so on! Now I have an even stronger passion to use my time wisely, to be
honest, make the right decisions, to stay humble, and respect myself. Thank you for writing
your book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.
Sami Qian, 7th Grade
Level 2--3rd Place
Dear R.J. Palacio,
I read Wonder about 2 years ago while I was in 5th grade. I chose the book because
it was a Mark Twain Award Nominee, and I liked it more than I thought I would. The
book hooked me, and I felt like I was in the story experiencing the things Auggie
experienced. Wonder made me think deeper into what real friends are. It also made me
realize how hard it is to stand up to bullies and how Auggie's friends helped him overcome
the bully. The book made me think about how many people's lives could be a lot worse
than we think, but we just don't know it. Wonder made me think about many issues and
topics. Here are some examples how your book changed the way I see things.
I saw things differently after I read Wonder. I saw how bullies think. I now know
why some people bully, because they are having problems at home so they think they have
to take it out on someone else. I treated the bully different. I wanted to become their
friend. I wanted to know what was going on, to see if I could help them. I was like a little
counselor in a way. I stood up for more people believing that I could make a difference;
thinking that if the bully would just go away their life would be different. Their life would
change. So thank you for writing Wonder.
Your book Wonder made me think in depth about many issues such as bullies. Why
are kids so mean? Auggie can't help being deformed, but people are still mean to him.
Also, the bullies don't know what could be going on at home. It also made me think about
how it would be to transition from home-schooling to a real school. You would not even
know how the school would work. I can relate to Auggie not knowing his way around
because I moved to a new school when I was in 6th grade and I did not know my way
around or very many people.
Auggie faces many struggles that many people don't go through but through it all
he still makes friends. " ... you know, that's what I like best about you. I feel like I can tell
you anything. Yeah? I answer, nodding. I gave her a thumbs-up sign. Cool beans." I can
relate to this these sentences from the book because friendships are so important to me. In
middle school it is hard to know who you can trust and who you can't. It is so important
to have best friends, and for Auggie it was even harder for him to find friends because of
his disability. I understood how hard it is for Auggie to fit in, and while I was reading this
book I could picture myself in your book.
I want to thank you for writing Wonder. Wonder made me think about many
things. Wonder changed the way I look at people with disabilities. Wonder made me want
to become a person who works with kids with disabilities when I am older. Your book
Wonder made me think about many topics and issues. Thank you for that. Thank you for
opening my eyes and letting me see the world differently.
Gwen Hazlett, T" grade