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LAL IN OTHER COUNTRIES
Although Letters About Literature does not accept international submissions for consideration of state and national prizes, we are beginning to receive letters from LAL competitions in other countries! Three letters from from Robert Helmer’s students in Santa Cruz Cooperative School in Santa Cruz, Bolivia are shown below.
Dear Mr. Roald Dahl,
Watching the drastic events that happen here in my home country I feel insecure hoping to enter the fantasy world of your books. A few years ago I started reading your books and the first one I read was Fantastic Mr. Fox. This book made me realize there was more to life than a happy ending.
As I entered the world of Mr. Fox, a fantasy world created by you, I started to picture his life as my own. I started to think like him and my emotions toward him and the farmers always changed so drastically as the chapters went on, always making fantastic Mr. Fox my hero. My opinions about their way of life were so different from anyone else’s because I knew all the trouble they went through was to survive even though the farmers’ actions were very selfish.
This book taught me many things, but the most important lesson of them all was that family always comes first because no matter what they will always support you and be by your side.
After finishing this book I became intrigued by your way of writing so I started to read a couple more of your books. That was when I bumped into Matilda. The story of a girl with magical powers who would do anything to learn, even leave her own family.
I kind of found this book ironic concerning the moral I learned from Fantastic Mr. Fox. As I entered this new world I found myself creating different endings on how this book would end. I started creating new characters and new dilemmas in my mind letting my imagination flow. Would Miss Trunchbull keep the house? Will the father let his daughter read a book? Would her family discover the beautifulness in learning? Would they also discover there was more in life than a T.V.? Will the sweet Ms. Honey finally face up to her aunt, the horrible Ms. Trunchbull? But the most important question was if there was going to be a happy ending. Many of these questions popped into my mind. Maybe my questions did get answered and I probably got the answers I expected to have, but this book wasn’t enough.
My thirst for reading books created by a magnificent author such as you was just beginning. As I grew older this thirst became stronger almost insatiable. After Matilda I read The BFG entering the magnificent world of giants and dreams. After the BFG came James and the Giant Peach and the books just kept coming.
All your books have given me valuable lessons. Don’t take life so seriously, have fun, be a kid and make mistakes have been only some of them. Most of all you have showed me a part of the world I would have never learned if it wasn’t for you so I would like to thank you for writing great books that have made me laugh, cry, scream, and very mad but most important thank you for changing the way I view life.
Maria Cristina Espinoza
Dear Anne Frank:
A year ago, I read your diary when I found it at my grandma’s house. She said it would be good if I read it and that later on, when I finished the diary, I would have a totally different point of view towards the world. To tell the truth, she was right. Your spontaneous entries in your diary from day to day were always suspenseful. You were brave Anne, very brave, and even though you wouldn’t admit it, your diary helped me find myself again. It helped me find myself and my thoughts that were stolen by the humanity of my times where they sunk very deeply into the unknown memories of mine, while new, unacceptable ideas invaded my thoughts.
That vacation I went to my grandmother’s house for Christmas, and I went alone. My family stayed behind for a while. I had an awful fight with my best friends, and the boy I liked was gone. I felt comforted reading your diary at first. I identified with the way of life you had, the great relationship you had with your dad, the group of thirty kids that might be called friends, and boys who could be after me. We didn’t lack anything, not a soul to complain, but we both still need the best friend which I still wait for. We even agree on the quote you made, that said “often, paper is more patient than man.” But after some pages, I understood the difference of our times, the different religions we had, and the future you were expected to have. Slowly, I understood that your private diary I was reading was soon to be a memory you left behind from your life while you, oblivious to your future, followed the highway to death.
I completely identified my life with yours and felt that if we meet each other, we could be great friends in spite of our differences, but our lives took different courses and by time, you were left lonely like I felt before. Your great intelligence and applied efforts to studies during your stay in the “Secret Annex” were lonesome, and I, on the other hand, have the school you would begrudge. You had the talent that not many have to demonstrate the cries of the children that were included in your times of war. You had the strength to survive your constant fears and to describe the way of living and coexisting with the other seven people in the annex. You were the one to show that pre-judgment wasn’t a good thing but a lack of knowledge that people constantly have. You made me see that the fear of death is greater than the actions that are made for survival and see that many things depend on intelligence and on luck.
Your life was distinguished because you suffered things I never thought possible with the exceptions of stories. You were the one that was able to demonstrate and clarify the cruelty of war and the sense of being only a breath away from death. You were brave Anne, you did a fantastic job. You raised the pleas of millions of prisoners to a higher recognition through all types of people and demonstrated that life is not always nice without friends, nor the absence of clean air and hot sun, or rainy days and the necessary sight of natural light. The tough life you carried was the one that made me have a better relationship with my family. It made me learn to appreciate my few friends, made me stop fighting, but most of all, made me gather knowledge from the cruelty of war and by the strong, shouting voices that come from it. My point of view had an extreme change even though it is not fully justified, but this is all thanks to you, Anne. I can assure you that it isn’t only me who would like to tell you this, but I speak for many voices. I speak for many voices that are distributed worldwide and you might as well become an idol to many. After reading your diary, my subjects of discussions have changed, my main interest has an intense variation. Most of all, that diary that clearly reflects fear and draws a frightening road to death, also made my life take a new risk, the risk of having more confidence to specific friends, the risk of allowing people to enter my life and leave a deep mark that will stay in my life forever. Now I’m conscious that those little risk that we take in life will last forever, but we don’t always have the chance to seek them and receive in return as we would wish for.
Anne, I must thank you now that I have the chance, thank you for allowing me to read your thoughts, thank you for changing my life completely. Thanks for remarking the great defects that one might have when not being noticed by oneself. You were brave Anne, and somehow, without knowing you completely, you are the best friend one might have, at least for me. We’ll meet someday, Anne, but until then, the only thing left to say is a good-bye. If your soul is to come back, don’t be afraid. Now the war is over, and I doubt if it should ever start again.
Dear Mr. Elie Wiesel,
Growing up in the modern 20th century, I was taught and told to remember the Golden Rule: “to treat others the way I would like to be treated.” As an innocent child in a happy home, I always thought that Earth was home to humans, creatures sharing a love for each other and offering protection and education against all evil. Innocence, although blessed at times, can hide the cruel reality. Through the news, the newspapers, and the television, I slowly began to shed a coat of my naivety. However, it was not until I read your book Night that I realized how cruel, evil, ruthless, and immature we humans can really be.
Mr. Wiesel, I would like to begin by expressing my deepest sympathies to you, your family, and the memories of the horrible situation you had to experience. I must admit that all my lifetime troubles combined do not seem half as grievous as the hardships you had to endure. At such a young age, it amazes how mature and wise you seemed to be. Unfortunately, your childhood and that of many others was cut short thanks to the selfish, ruthless, and capricious attitudes of others. I admire you, Mr. Wiesel, for your courage and determination to keep on going. Although it seemed as if you almost sank in, you were able to make it to the end, something that I do not think many could have done. Your novel is a source of strength; an example to follow when times get tough.
Now, I must thank you. Thank you very much for being one of the few survivors of the Holocaust who have opened up their painful experiences to the world. Thank you for struggling to survive. Thank you for taking care and worrying about your father. Thank you for keeping the Holocaust and Hitler’s clear desires and genocide plans alive. Thank you for spreading the truth to future generations. Thank you for opening up my mind to the true reality. Although it might have been easier and less emotional to have kept these memories locked up in the back of your mind, it is your experiences that add the feeling to history. Facts about World War II, concentration camps, and the Holocaust can be found everywhere, but it is the true accounts such as yours that are rare. Dates from an encyclopedia do not contain the emotion, the reality, or the cruelty that your novel expresses. Although you have probably heard this many times throughout your life, I have to thank you for keeping the truth alive because it is important that humans know how cruel we can be. Before I read your book, the Holocaust to me was just a period of time. Now it symbolizes the brutality of humans, the efforts of a race, and the division and hatred that exists in our world.
I appreciate your time Mr. Elie Wiesel for reading this letter. Your novel Night opened up my eyes to the emotionless and merciless monsters that we humans can be. It is embarrassing to admit that all that happened during the Holocaust was legal. But this is where your hard work and tiresome struggle comes in because it is the obligation of my generation and those to come to never let such a horrendous event occur again.