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Letters About Literature National Winners 2010

National Winner, Level 3: Kaitlyn Krasselt, ID

Dear Dr. Seuss,

First off, I would like to say that I have not been traumatized by any specific event, nor am I struggling with self-identification, suffering from a rare disease, dealing with the loss of a close family member, managing dysfunctional family issues, or stressed about fitting in with the stereotypical teenage crowd that roams the halls of every high school in America. I have not yet needed the help of your books to get through an especially rough patch in my life, mostly because I haven’t had any especially rough patches yet. I do, however, pay close attention to current issues and I am very aware of the problems that have created conflict among and within social groups throughout the world. In turn, I also spend a lot of time babysitting young children who had just boarded the Reading Railroad, allowing me to revisit the same books I enjoyed at their age.

Having become accustomed to books that lack pictures and require an analytical search for a deeper meaning hidden by the author, it is refreshing to step back into the shoes of my six-year-old self. I thoroughly enjoy returning to the worlds of the Sneetches, the Whos, and Cats in the Hats that made their way into my imagination with their tongue twisting dialogue and fascinating adventures. I have often wondered, since reading such stories, if our world is, in fact, a tiny speck on a clover just waiting to be protected by a fun-loving elephant named Horton.

I have waited on a rainy day for a cat in a striped red-and-white hate to waltz into my living room and sweep me off my feet, searched for a Wocket in my pocket, and tried with all my might to read with my eyes shut. It was not until I reentered the colorful universes created between the covers of your books that taught me how to sound out my vowels and string together consonants that I realized these stories were more than just fun. To be completely honest, I was shocked to discover that the stories I loved dealt with such real world issues as racism and social status. I had always thought the thin books on the shelf were silly stories meant to teach kids the basics of the English language and instill such morals as sharing, saying please and thank you, and always being nice to others.

Upon further inspection, it became evident to me that such stories were not only meant as a lesson for the children learning to mind their p’s and q’s, but also a wake up call for the observant adults in charge of insuring their children’s education. The star-bellied sneetches were no different than the plain-bellied sneetches, despite the advice of Sylvester McMonkey McBean. The sneetches got so mixed up in their star-swapping that they could no longer remember who was supposed to better than the other. The Whos, who were so small they would barely be heard, were forced to join together just to fight for their cause—and the smallest Who, of course, made the biggest difference of all. It was the smallest who had the loudest voice, allowing their speck to be heard by Horton’s doubters and saved from a terrible fate.

I was thrilled to uncover such morals, even though they had always been there, unhidden and as obvious as the manners-based morals I had once assumed to be the only message on the page. The blatant reminders that our society is not the center of the universe, which are only subtle to the unassuming beginning reader, were inspiring to be found in such a format. Because of your stories, I was motivated to voice my opinions in essay contests, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars: Voice of Democracy contest in which I received the second place prize. As the daughter of a police officer, it was evident to me that they were not getting the recognition they deserved as veterans of very similar situations to those faced by other military branches. I felt the contest was a prime outlet for my opinion. I have also been able to use my newfound voice in articles I have written for local newspapers. It has become apparent to me that sometimes our method for letting our voice bet heard is not always practical, but is always possible.

You have proven again and again that no matter what our message is, and no matter what our means of displaying our cause, it is always possible to let the world know how we feel, despite how small we think our voice may be. Upon rediscovering your stories, which have always remained close to my heart simply because of their sentimental value, I was reminded of my voice and its possible impact in the world today. Thank you.

Kaitlyn Krasselt