State Winners

2016 Level 1 State Winners

First place:

Alexander Jadoo, McGuire Middle School, Lakeville

(letter to Brian Falkner, author of Brain Jack)

Dear Brian Falkner,

I write to you, to thank you for your writing. You have opened my eyes to the truth that hides behind a grand illusion. You have allowed me to discover the code of our lives, to read, in depth, the lines of our past, present, and look to the future. For the years to come, I will remember Brain Jack for what it has done for me.

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Second Place:

Marie Schumacher, Lake Country School, Minneapolis

(letter to Elizabeth George Speare, author of The Witch of Blackbird Pond)

Dear Elizabeth George Speare,

I have read your book, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, many times. Reading it every single time has been a thrilling journey. I have laughed with the characters, learned with the characters, and at the appropriate times, cried with the characters. While reading your book, I not only learned about that time period in the seventeenth century and the way many people lived then, but I also learned a lot about who I want to be. In this book, many of the characters live their lives governed by fear and prejudice. What they did not understand they feared.

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Third Place (tie):

Ani Heikkila, Parkview School, Roseville

(letter to J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series)

Dear J.K. Rowling,

“To the well organized mind, death is the next great adventure.” I remember when I first heard those words. I was probably four, yet they seem to hold so much. But so much what? What did they hold? I didn’t find out until I was six.

I was reading the Harry Potter books to myself for the first time; it hit me then. It hit me so hard, tears of pain came to my eyes. I realized at that moment, that all life must end. Every beautiful creature, plant, even human must leave the earth forever. I realized that my grandfather was gone. Forever. He was never coming back.

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Gracie Ritzenthaler, Visitation School, Mendota Heights

(letter to Thanhha Lai, author of Inside Out and Back Again)

Dear Thanhha Lai,

Your book, Inside Out and Back Again, changed my perspective on bravery. Your book showed me that there are other ways of being brave. I thought being brave meant being a soldier or withstanding physical pain. But now I know that courage is bravery, too. Your character, Kim Ha was forced out of her home in Vietnam and fled with her family to America. That is courageous because she had to start over in a new place, and find a new home. She left behind all she had. I have never moved from the house I grew up in. It is hard to imagine moving to another continent with only the clothes on my back. I have traveled to other countries that speak different languages and that was hard, but I have never had to go to school using another language.

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2016 Level II State Winners

First Place:

Natalie Anderson, The Blake School, Minneapolis

(letter to George Orwell, author of Animal Farm)

Dear George Orwell,

After reading every single word in your book Animal Farm at least three times, this passage will always stick with me, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” This twisted reasoning was used to oppress the animals in the novel by making some animals think they were better than others. For example, there was only one candidate for president, but the farm’s commandments declared the farm to be a society of equals. Although your book is 70 years old, your ideas about equality still hold true. I can see this idea of equality applied, in regards to the treatment of women in the workplace today. When I read this quote in your book, it reminded me of the stories my mom has told me about her quest for equality in her job.

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Second Place:

Andrea Hansen, Wayzata East Middle School, Plymouth

(letter to J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series)

Dear Ms. Rowling,

Your books have changed my life. Your books have helped me through a time when I felt hurt and always sad. For years I thought that I did not need to read the Harry Potter series, I thought that if I did I would be following the crowd—I was wrong. Your books taught me about how you can choose your own path, just like Harry chose to be in Gryffindor. I learned the value of friendship through your books by looking at how Harry, Hermione, and Ron always stuck together, and after I had finished reading them I knew I wouldn’t change a thing.

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Third Place:

Aaryan Gulati, The Blake School, Minneapolis

(letter to Marcus Zusak, The Book Thief)

Dear Mr. Zusak,

Which is more powerful: words and books or bullets and guns? Until I read The Book Thief, I would have always said bullets and guns, but in your book it is words that lead to compassion, such as reading to the kids and adults to take their minds of the bombing and sorrow, such as how Hitler enslaves Germany using them. You show how words led to one of the most horrific events in history—the Holocaust. Books and words also help shield a young girl, Liesel, from the horror of Nazi Germany. She learns that the ideas expressed in books have the power to change the world for better or worse.

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2016 Level III State Winners

First Place:

Dani Dahlseid, Robbinsdale Cooper High School, New Hope

(letter to Jay Asher, author of Thirteen Reasons Why)

Dear Jay Asher,

It might be strange for a girl to write to you about a book you wrote about another dead girl, but “Thirteen Reasons Why” was a book that had given me hope when I needed it most.

I was in seventh grade when your book’s words truly affected me. I was only twelve, but I hated myself. I hated the way I looked, the way I spoke, my actions, the way I thought, the very breath that I took every day just for the fact that it had kept me alive. When you see a twelve year old, you don’t think this is something that could possibly be dancing across their mind.

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Second Place:

Julie Eilers, White Bear Lake High School, White Bear Lake

(letter to Dr. Seuss, author of The Cat in the Hat)

Dear Dr. Seuss,

Everybody has things they don’t mention, and subjects they try to avoid at all costs. In my case, this “thing” is a large chunk of my childhood.

The combination of an absent father and a mentally ill mother is one combination I wouldn’t want to wish on anyone, although these were the cards I was dealt, so to speak. As I grew up, my mother’s schizophrenic tendencies along with a refusal to take medication began to affect me. At age five, when it was time for me to enroll in Kindergarten, she insisted I would be home-schooled.

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Third Place:

Claire Hank, White Bear Lake High School, White Bear Lake

(letter to anonymous, In the Silence)

Dear author who can not be named,

Your poem “In The Silence” touched the very core of my heart six years ago. Before December 7, 2008, I was a happy third grader who loved to smile and give hugs; also I was emotional and sensitive. In third grade I was prone to daydreaming and was starting to be interested in reading. However, December seventh was the day I stopped loving to smile, giving hugs to others, and became more guarded with my emotions.

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