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Letters About Literature National Winners 2010

National Honor Winner, Level 1: Davis Klimek, OH

Dear Mr. Hiaasen,

Two years ago, I read your book Hoot. The whole Mother Paula’s Pancake House being built on the site of endangered burrowing owls, and the kids actions in the book to prevent it, made me realize two important things: One, the cost of development to wildlife and wildlife habitats can be devastating and irreversible. Two, even kids can make a difference when they stand for what they believe in.

For several years, I have been going with my family and grandparents to Sea Island, Georgia, for vacation. One of the best parts of Sea Island for me is going to the beach and seeing the wildlife. Sea Island is an important nesting site for endangered loggerhead sea turtles, an animal that I love. The loggerhead sea turtles return year after year to the same nesting spot. Recently, Sea Island had a big expansion and a new pool, movie theater, and several other buildings and condominiums were added. Most people see these developments as a good thing, but I know that the expansion has hurt the wildlife and destroyed helpless animals’ homes. There is now less shoreline for the loggerhead sea turtles to nest on and more noise and brighter lights on the beach which will scare the sea turtles from coming on shore to nest. Like the kids in Hoot, who would rather see burrowing owls than a pancake house, I would rather see endangered loggerhead turtles instead of a movie theater.

I have not done anything dangerous or illegal to stop the development but like the kids in Hoot I am trying to make a difference. I have become friends with the Sea Island Naturalist and I go on all of the late night and early morning turtle patrol walks that I can. During turtle patrols we use special red lights and search for new sea turtle nests which we mark with identification stakes. One morning I saw a baby loggerhead turtle hatch and make its way to the ocean, it was an incredible experience! I have also helped pass out fliers that encourage beach property owners to shut off their outdoor lights at night. This way the female turtles won’t be scared to come on the beach and newly hatched baby turtles won’t be confused and head away from, instead of towards, the ocean. I have also become a member of the Sea Turtle Center, which saves sea turtles and nurses them back to health.

Mr. Hiaasen, you have opened my mind about what can happen to wildlife when there is development. People are not thinking about what they are doing to the environment when they build new buildings or destroy shore-lines. The book Hoot inspired me to act, and I now know that it doesn’t matter if you are big or small. If you stand up for what you believe in you can make something happen.

Davis Klimek