April 20, 1999 Center for the Book and Weekly Reader Corporation Announce "Letters About Literature" Essay Contest Winners

Contact: Yvonne French (202) 707-9191

A Pennsylvania girl and a budding New York folksinger won the "Letters About Literature" essay contest, the Center for the Book and Weekly Reader Corporation announced today. They competed with 20,000 students nationwide in the reading-writing contest. The students' essays were read by 100 judges across the country.

"Letters About Literature" invites students to write a personal letter to an author -- living or dead -- explaining how the author's work changed their lives.

Kelly McAnerney, a seventh-grade student at Seneca Valley Middle School in Harmony, Pa., won the national prize from grades 4-7 for her letter to Jerry Spinelli, author of the humorous young-adult novel Crash. Penn, a misfit character in the novel, helped Kelly see the maliciousness of the teasing and bullying that goes on in her school. She wrote Spinelli, "Crash pushed me into doing what I'd often denied my conscience: being nice. Your novel handed me a new pair of sneakers to walk life's roads, and they fit wonderfully."

Bradley Farberman, an eighth-grade student at Woodmere Middle School in Hewlett, N.Y., won the national prize from grades 8-12 for his letter to Woody Guthrie about Guthrie's autobiography, Bound for Glory. The book inspired Bradley, who like Guthrie, writes songs and plays a guitar. After reading Bound for Glory, Bradley made a commitment to himself to "speak his mind and to talk real loud" about hope and beauty. He said he would like to travel across the country, as Woody Guthrie did, singing songs about everyday Americans.

"Books give young people wings," said Cathy Gourley, director of the national program, "wings to cope with peer pressure and parental divorce, wings to rise above prejudice and discover a pride in cultural and racial heritage. These were just some of the themes students explore in their letters this year." The contest has been held since 1982.

State-level winners were also selected by 26 participating state Center for the Book affiliates. A state-by-state list of winners follows. For further information call Weekly Reader at (203) 705-3500.

First Place Winners Awarded by Participating State Center for the Book Affiliates

  • Alaska
    Level I (grades 4-7): Linnea Johansen, grade 6, Pearl Creek Elementary, Fairbanks, letter to Gloria Whelan, Hannah
    Level II (grades 8-12): Rachel Bennett, grade 12, A.J. Dimond High School, Anchorage, letter to Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
  • Arizona
    Level I: Sam Watters, grade 5, Kyrene de la Esperanza School, Phoenix, letter to Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage
    Level II: Rebecca Doell, grade 12, Chaparral High School, Scottsdale, letter to Ernest Gaines, A Lesson Before Dying
  • California
    Level I: Dallas Woodburn, grade 6, Cabrillo Middle School, Ventura, letter to Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
    Level II: Ash Hill, grade 8, Clifford School, Redwood City, letter to Elizabeth Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
  • Colorado
    Level I: Rachel Winter, grade 7, Zion Lutheran School, Brighton, letter to Deborah Savage, To Race A Dream
    Level II: Christine Ridge, grade 11, Arapahoe High School, Littleton, letter to A.A. Milne, House at Pooh Corner
  • Connecticut
    Level I: Erin McCarthy, grade 5, Branchville Elementary School, Ridgefield, letter to Eloise McGraw, The Moorchild
    Level II: Brenda Addison, Ella T. Grasso Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical School, Groton, letter to the anonymous author of Go Ask Alice
  • Florida
    Level I: MacKennon Shehee, grade 6, Creative Learning Center, Pensacola, letter to Colonel McKinnon, The History of Walton County
    Level II: Emily Goldman, grade 10, Lake Mary High School, Lake Mary, letter to Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You'll Go
  • Illinois
    Level I: Ann Wooton, grade 7, Emerson School, Oak Park, letter ot Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank
    Level II: Ericka Wills, grade 10, Ridgeview High School, Colfax, letter to Richard Wright, Native Son
  • Kansas
    Level I: Danielle Sunberg, grade 6, Pembroke Hill School, Leawood, letter to Vicki Grove, The Crystal Garden
    Level II: Betheny Pittman, grade 10, Maize High School, Wichita, letter to Steven Cosgrove and Robin James, the Serendipity series
  • Louisiana
    Level I: Michael Hart, grade 7, Episcopal Day School, Lake Charles, letter to J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
    Level II: Stacy Nelson, grade 9, C.E. Byrd High School, Shreveport, letter to James Hurst, "The Scarlet Ibis"
  • Maryland
    Level I: Kevin Fallon, grade 6, Plum Point Middle School, Huntingtown, letter to Emily Cheney Neville, It's Like This, Cat
    Level II: Marcus Wang, grade 11, Gilman School, Baltimore, letter to Jackie Chan, I Am Jackie Chan
  • Minnesota
    Level I: Nellene Benhardus, grade 7, St. Anthony Middle School, St. Anthony, letter to Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia
    Level II: Emilia Allen, grade 9, Southview Middle School, Edina, letter to Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
  • Missouri
    Level I: Logan Skelly, grade 5, Cecil Floyd Elementary, Joplin, letter to Janell Cannon, Stellaluna
    Level II: Sara Luebbering, grade 9, Simonsen 9th Grade Center, Jefferson City, letter to Lurlene McDaniel, Don't Die, My Love
  • Nebraska
    Level I: Kris Wright-Peterson, grade 7, Irving Middle School, Lincoln, letter to Willa Cather, O Pioneers!
    Level II: Jamie Hamburg, grade 10, Burke High School, Omaha, letter to Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air
  • Nevada
    Level I: Jeremee Peters, grade 7, The Meadows School, Las Vegas, letter to John Hersey, Hiroshima
    Level II: Aurora Patridge, grade 10, Edward C. Reed High School, Sparks, letter to J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
  • New Mexico
    Level I: Leticia Valencia, grade 7, Lynn Middle School, Las Cruces, letter to Ann Turner, Nettie's Trip South and Philip Hernandez, grade 4, Dona Ana Elementary, Las Cruces, letter to Richard Atwater, Mr. Popper's Penquins
    Level II: Nora Geiss, grade 12, Santa Fe Preparatory, Santa Fe, letter to James Baldwin, Sonny's Blues
  • North Carolina
    Level I: Rebecca Neer, grade 5, McGee's Crossroads Elementary School, Willow Springs, letter to Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia
    Level II: Jaroah Carter, grade 12, Beddingfield High School, Wilson, letter to Nikki Giovanni, The Collected Poems of Nikki Giovanni
  • North Dakota
    Level I: Jacquelyn Bartz, Bismarck, letter to Jerry Spinelli, Maniac Magee
    Level II: No winner selected this year
  • Ohio
    Level I: Tim Chai, grade 5, Birchwood School, Cleveland, letter to Gary Paulsen, Hatchet
    Level II: Natalia Moese, grade 8, Lakota Ridge Junior High School, West Chester, letter to Matt Christopher, The Winning Stroke
  • Oklahoma
    Level I: Kristen Dodson, grade 5, Spiro Upper Elementary School, Spiro, letter to Bill Wallace, The Christmas Spurs
    Level II: Jeremy Oleson, grade 8, Kerr Junior High School, Del City, letter to Chieko Akiyama, Faithful Elephants
  • Oregon
    Level I: Jessica Fox, grade 7, Whitford Middle School, Portland, letter to Lois Lowry, The Giver
    Level II: Trevor Ducker, grade 12, School, Cottage Grove, letter to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet
  • Tennessee
    Level I: Virginia Batts, grade 4, Ensworth School, Nashville, letter to Marguerite Henry, Stormy, Misty's Foal
    Level II: Lusine Zeytunyan, grade 12, Wayne County High School, letter to John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men
  • Texas
    Level I: Marc Trust, grade 7, Trautmann Middle School, Laredo, letter to Leo Buscaglia, The Fall of Freddie the Leaf
    Level II: Adam Bilal, grade 11, Katy High School, Katy, letter to Katerine Anne Porter, Ship of Fools
  • Virginia
    Level I: Sarah Chase-Levenson, grade 6, Village School, Charlottesville, letter to Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
    Level II: Mitch Mathias, grade 11, Albemarle High School, Charlottesville, letter to Maya Angelou, "Equality"
  • Washington
    Level I: Bryan Fakkema, grade 6, Oak Harbor Middle School, letter to Lee Rodney, Hunted in the Alaskan Wilderness
    Level II:. Jason Kim, grade 8, Einstein Middle School, letter to Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None
  • Wisconsin
    Level I: Amanda Amodeo, grade 7, Eisenhower Middle School, New Berlin, letter to Anna Sewell, Black Beauty
    Level II: Gina Rosen, grade 12, Pius XI High School, Milwaukee, letter to Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
  • Wyoming
    Level I: Lindsay Egginton, grade 7, Holy Name School, Sheridan, letter to C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
    Level II: Lacey Witowski, Jackson, letter to C.S. Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia

The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress was established in 1977 to stimulate public interest in books, reading, and libraries. Its program, which is supported mostly by private funds, reaches into every region of the country through a network of 36 affiliated state centers and more than 50 national educational and civic organizations. For more information about the Center for the Book and its activities, visit its Web site at www.loc.gov/loc/cfbook.


PR 99-054
ISSN 0731-3527