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Letters About Literature National Winners 2009

Honorable Mentions, Level 2: Abby Tillotson

Dear Jerry Spinelli,

Your book Stargirl changed my life. When I started reading it, it was just another book, but as I kept reading, it really made me think. When I finished, I decided that I should be more like Stargirl. I wanted to make an impression on people's lives, make them better. But where to start?

 I decided on a few girls at my school. You wouldn't think there was any problem at first, but a day with them would show that these girls were really nasty. They weren't the normal type of mean person, Jerry Spinelli, they were worse. They wouldn't tell someone that they thought they were dorky, they would stare at them, then laugh or scoff. This is much worse than it seems, it feels more personal than ordinary insults, which they also threw into the mix. They would be unkind to my friends, and sometimes me. A lot of people thought they were just snobby, but I felt bad that they had to be cruel to others just to feel better about themselves.

Things were getting worse, Jerry Spinelli. Those girls were merciless. I decided that I wouldn't only have to help the mean people, but also the people they were mean to. This was a very large project, and I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I thought of Stargirl and how kind she was. It really made me sad that she was so nice, and did so much, but people didn't understand. I was certain that I could try. I could try to make other people happier.

I began with those girls whose wrath was feared by all. I would smile at them, tell them that I thought their book report was cool; sometimes I went as far as to sit with them at lunch and keep things from gossip. That part was the worst. They sort of ignored me, but you would be amazed at how kind people can be if you give them your cookie. I tried to give them positive things to talk about, too. That got easier with practice. I learned to direct a conversation to something everyone thought was nice.

The victims were easier because they were less hostile. A lot of them were friends, and that made it better. However, they were still tough because they had become so used to what the others said, they believed it. For instance, when they said things like "I'm so fat" I told them they were great and most certainly not fat. They often talked about their dislike for the other group, and I told them what was nice about them. Nobody's completely mean. That was a quality I liked about Stargirl, she saw the beauty in everything.

You wouldn't believe it, Jerry, you really wouldn't. After a while, people joined me, because they were tired of it all as well. Finally, my project paid off! It wasn't happily ever after, but it was happy. The meaner girls weren't as mean any more, and the people they victimized started to see themselves with more confidence. It wasn't like we were all best friends, but we all seemed to appreciate each other more. It seemed that there were lots more pebbles in everyone's happy wagons.

Even today, I keep Stargirl in mind. I try to make friends with people, even if they aren't that affable, because everyone deserves a friend. I'm working on practicing random acts of kindness, like cheering for the other team. Being caring is lots more fun than people think. Oh, and if you were wondering how many pebbles are in my happy wagon: mine's full.

Most cordially,

Abby Tillotson