Letters About Literature National Winners 2004
National Winner, Level 2: Adam Jackson
Mooresville, North Carolina
Dear Ben Mikaelsen,
A student pushed a ten-year-old boy off a school bus causing him to land face down on the ground, "just to be funny." The bus driver drove away after asking only half-heartedly if the boy was "okay." Imagine this same boy shoved into the corner of the school building while three students held the boy down, twisting and pinching his skin in several spots causing immediate bruising. Other students walked by laughing and without stopping to help. The principal dismissed the actions as "just boy's horseplay." The boy felt scared, hurt, and alone. I was that boy. Your book Petey opened up some of the those feelings all over again. I am stronger now, and in the eighth grade, but I can still remember how helpless I felt then. I think that this is how Petey felt until he met Trevor.
The character Trevor also felt familiar to me. He helped Petey all the time, despite their many differences. I was affected by Trevor because I have grown up near someone like Petey for most of my life. If you think about it, everyone has. Anyone that can't take care of themselves, whether they are a child or an adult, is a Petey. People in need deserve help from others that are more fortunate like Trevor, myself, or anyone that can offer them kindness. After reading Petey, I realized that even though I am only thirteen, I can make a big difference in someone's life. The way I treat someone today can affect their life forever.
Petey reminds me that I have choices. I can be like Trevor or like the bullies. What will I do? Will I help, or will I just stand there as a cold, unfeeling statue, and do nothing? Being needed by someone can be uncomfortable, and you don't always know what to do to make things better. After reading Petey, I realized that being around someone with a handicap is a lot like being around someone younger than you. They are normal people, but they just can't do things by themselves. You have to be willing to explore your feelings and have an open mind to what is "normal." When you are around them, you have to be alert and make sure that they are safe and not getting into trouble. If they do get into trouble, you have to be patient and teach them. It is these values that I've learned from your book.
Anyone can learn about Petey's disease, Cerebral Palsy, but it takes guts to reach out and actually do something to ease another person's suffering. We all have the potential to be a Trevor. Reading Petey will help us to look beyond ourselves and past others' outward appearances.
Petey had no use of his legs and was confined to a wheelchair, but your insight into his problems helped me to walk in his shoes. I find myself complaining less these days about what life dishes out, and on occasion, wondering how Petey would handle something that I might see as difficult. Thank you for sharing Petey with me. Your book can encourage us all to understand that we are much more alike than we are different.