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Letters About Literature National Winners 2011

National Honor Winner, Level 1: Taylor Mathews, AR

Dear Erin Hunter,

There are many books in this world that are life changing, and your book, Into the Wild, is one of them. It certainly had a great impact on my life.

Before I read your book, I knew many kids who loved to read, but I was not one of them. My posse of friends and I often made fun of "the readers". We would tease them and call them names. Truthfully, I just hated reading and could not understand why anyone would want to do it. It bored me so much that I would never read in my free time. I would rather play video games, go skating at the skate park, or just chill with my friends. However, all that changed that fateful day my mom showed me your book, Into the Wild.

I was lying on the couch, playing my DS, when my mom tapped me on the shoulder. She showed me your book with its green forest background and a rusty red cat. Normally, I would have just ignored the book and tossed it into the cardboard box of forgotten books that I kept under my bed. Except at that moment, the box was overflowing with unread books. I knew that if my mom saw me ditch the book, she would probably go into a fit about how I never read, and how it would raise my IQ, yada, yada, yada. So instead, I took the book, intending to skim it until she walked away. But, I thought, "what the heck." I might as well read it and get it over with. That began what has become the greatest adventure of my short life.

As I read the book, I became part of Fire Paw's story. I hunted with the Thunder Clan. I swam with the River Clan and despised Blue Star with Shadow Clan. I was not there in body, but I was so there in spirit. When I finished reading the book, I was astonished. Done already? How could that be? I was just getting started. In that moment, I experienced something I didn't even know existed, the hunger of the next story. But, what could I do? I just had to wait for the release of your next book, Fire and Ice. When it finally came out, I grabbed my bike and peddled as fast as I could to the bookstore. I couldn't wait to sprawl out on my couch, open the crisp new pages, and let the characters rush forward to greet me, their long, lost friend. After that, I devoured every book in the Warriors series, and I didn't stop there. It was as if I had become a reading machine.

From then on, I have read everything I could get my hands on. When my old friends found out about my new passion, they made fun of me. I shouldn't have been surprised. They just did to me what we had done to others in the past. Only now, it was me being the one teased. I quickly realized how hurtful teasing could be. I apologized to all the kids I had teased, and believe it or not, I even became friends with several of them.

Now, I am in the 6th grade, and I am still reading like a maniac. My old friends still make fun of me on occasion, but I don't care. Instead, I focus on becoming a better reader, and I do everything I can to achieve it. Besides, a book can be the best friend any guy ever had. Your books have certainly been there for me, and I consider Sunrise, Darkest Hour, and of course, Into the Wild, to be some of my closest friends, and they will live on forever in my heart. I am truly grateful to you for turning me on to reading. Without your books, I might still be that ignorant bully, teasing kids and missing out on one of life's greatest joys—reading.

Taylor Mathews