Allison's Book Bag

Dear Author, Letters Collected by READ Magazine

Posted on: August 22, 2012

My husband and I can never resist a book sale. On our most recent excursion, in support of our local retired teachers’ association, I couldn’t resist adding to my growing collection of books related to authors. My newest purchase, Dear Author, features student letters collected by Weekly Reader’s Read Magazine.

Read is a literary magazine for students. Along with The Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, the magazine used to cosponsor an essay contest called Letters About Literature. Each fall, editors at Read would invite students to write a personal letter to the author of a book that somehow changed the students’ way of thinking. In 1995, a sample of their received entries were published in Dear Author.

Students from all over United States wrote to authors from different centuries, countries, and genres. A few of the books they cited are no longer in print and ones I’ve never heard of, nor probably have you. The majority though are notables such as The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, It’s Not the End of the World by Judy Blume, The Secret Garden by Frances Burnett, and Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. As you can see, students didn’t limit their readings to one particular age group.

The letters were grouped into five topics: overcoming difficulties, power of conviction, self-discovery, war, and self-discovery. The last category has only one letter, a hilarious one written to children’s poet Shel Silverstein.

Some letters were short, others long, and all were interesting to read. It’d be hard to summarize them and so instead I’m sharing one that stood out to me. Most of the students wrote about how the letters had helped them in a pivotal moment, changed their mindset, or made them better people. However, one girl of twelve told William Sleator, “When I grow up, I am going to be a science fiction writer…. I will dedicate at least one of my science fiction books to you.” Two other students expressed a similar thought to the authors whom they wrote, but I quoted Lindsay Mayer’s letter because today she is a science fiction writer. Wow!

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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