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Letters About Literature

Dear Messrs. Levitt and Dubner

Sudeshna Barman
White Station High School

It sounds hokey to say that reading one book has changed my entire life's goals, and to be perfectly fair, I suppose it hasn't. After a few months; deliberation, I am no longer so sure I want to become an economist.

Messrs. Levitt and Dubner, 

I'd like to tell you a story.

When we were both in the tenth grade, I got a phone call from a friend who lived in California. As it happens with two teens who are forced into a conversation by the parents, talk turned to academics. Vikash, a sophomore, was taking AP Biology and AP Calculus BC - math and science classes two to three years ahead of the curve - in addition to courses at UCLA. "Why?" I demanded, quite astonished. He told me that he wanted to be an astronaut.

Dear J.D. Salinger

Christine Lee, 11th grade
Germantown High School

But it was then I realized that, like all tales of stereotypical teenage angst, my troubled demeanor could be solved by applying the moral of the book I was reading at the current time to my life. I couldn't become Holden. I couldn't just sit back and just think about things, I had to actually do them.

Dear J.D. Salinger,

IF YOU REALLY want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my awkward, Asian childhood was like, and if my parents actually had lives before they had me, and all that moody, wannabe rebel of society kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, honestly. I'll just tell you about this stuff that happened to me before the Christmas of my eighteenth year.

Dear Judy Schachner

Haley Wright, 7th grader
Siegel Middle School

Though Skippyjon Jones was nothing but a small cat, he stood up to big dogs or bullies. Skippyjon educated me with a well-needed lesson. You have to be brave. Nothing is completed without courage. Whether it is facing bullies, riding a bike, going through a gloomy time, or maybe even going into a dark room; you have to be brave and know the best is coming.

Dear Judy Schachner, 

Dear Angela Johnson

Emilee Taylor, 8th grade
Christiana Middle School

when I am old with you granddaddy, we can sit and play our guitars and sing together. While yours lies across your lap, I will strum mine as it hangs around my neck. After all, you were the inspiration for my music career in the first place. It would be just like the old times when you would stand up on the stage at the Ryman and the audience would listen to the whine of your steel guitar as you kept time with Ray Price. Maybe you could even give me some tips and pointers on how to be as amazing as you are. 

Dear Angela Johnson,

Dear William H. Armstrong

Kyler Hamilton, 6th grade
White Station Middle School

As I read this book, I realized that at times I have been selfish and ungrateful for the things that I have. I also realized the relationship that I have with my own father is one that I am grateful to have. Reading this book has caused me to get more acquainted with my father. I have asked, and we are spending more time together.

Dear William H. Armstrong,

I was really amazed by your book Sounder. It caused me to be grateful for what I have. Your book has opened my eyes and shown me that everything I have can be taken away in an instant. I look around my bedroom and I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the things I have.

Dear Cynthia Lord

Maggie Warren, 6th grade
Oakland Middle School

The things that matter most to you are found inside of you even though sometimes we do not share our feelings or treasures.

Dear Cynthia Lord,

I discovered my wings that lifted me up and made me understand the differences between people. David and my brother, Max, are the ones who seem to not get accepted by others because of their disability, autism. Catherine and I both wished someone would invent a pill and our brothers could wake up without autism. After reading Rules, my perspective changed as well as my attitude. 

Dear Kristin Cashore

Tela Taylor, 10th grade
Overton High School


I sat upright in bed with zero answers and a terrible headache, feeling wet trails meet underneath my chin. I swiped at them, but I noticed a red gleam through blurred eyes. I looked down at my new book. “Fire” I read internally. I traced the book’s golden title, down to the bottom where I expected your name to be, and flipped the pages to chapter one. Before I knew it, I had found the answers to my problems. 


Dear Kristin Cashore,

Dear Orson Scott Card

Ariel Asher, 8th grade
Blackman Middle School

A few weeks ago my father trusted me with his signed copy of your book, Ender’s Game. After reading it, I realized what a special book it was and realized why my dad had it up on his “special shelf” of books that he’d kept forever. 


Dear Mr. Orson Scott Card,

Dear R.J. Palacio

Ansley Stamper
Hutchison School

Reading Auggie’s older sister Via’s point of view completely changed my perspective. I totally understand her because I have felt the same way. Reading her experience made me look at my life in a different way. 


Dear R.J. Palacio,

To Dr. Seuss about Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?

Victoria Gray
Germantwon High School, 11th grade

The morning of May 7, 2005, our family's Camry sat parked in the crowded lot outside my elementary school. I could sense the enthusiasm surounding me as I observed the individuals entering the location where my first six years of public education would formally end, though I did not share in their excitement. I held still with my legs crossed neatly. My aunt was fixing my hair on the back seat since we'd left home with me undressed, afraid my father would come back. I walked in with Mrs. Albright's fifth grade class panting. Our last minute preparations left me with little time to address my anxiety. I saw all the parents in the bleachers, smiling at the children they spent all morning dressing, giggling at the sickeningly simply lyrics written for our special day.

Dear Dr. Seuss, 

To Markus Zusak about "The Book Thief"

Kelsey Keith
Christiana Middle School, 7th grade

The morning I finished your book was bright and filled with bustling spring air. Never had I felt more out of place in my so-close-to-perfect world. I cried, a delicate sorrow, letting the cool tears trickle down my rounded cheeks. After the seemingly endless tears dried on my face, I abruptly sat up on my bed, asking myself, Did I end this world forever?

Dear Mr. Markus Zusak,

Books! They allow you to escape the rest of the world for a moment in time, to delve into a world never offered to you. And, while I am neither Jewish, nor a thief, nor have I lost my dearest companions, I share the same craving for books as Liesel. While reading The Book Thief, I was reminded that, generations ago in a world now so distant, someone else felt the urge to read, also. Perhaps it never crossed my mind that it could be a young girl in Nazi Germany.

To Margaret Wise Brown about "Goodnight Moon"

Kara Delbridge
Siegel Middle School, 8th grade

Sleep seems like a small price to pay to live each day energetic and happy. We get up, we say good morning and good night to the people we love. Young children notice the smallest things when it is time to go to bed because they are making an effort to stay awake. Every night children that don’t understand the necessity of sleep, fight the war with their eyelids, trying to amaze themselves with this and that. I remember doing this when I was young and even to this day I still fight the battle of slumber; everyone does.


Dear Margaret Wise Brown,