Noah Damro and Emma Sebetka, Union Middle School 6th grade students, were recently recognized by the 2014 Letters About Literature contest program.
There were 50,000 entries from across the county, and 1,931 letters were written by Iowa students. In Noah and Emma's division, there were six winners, 29 finalists and 17 semi-finalists. Noah was one of the finalists and Emma was a semi-finalist; they each received a certificate to celebrate their achievement and to recognize their enthusiastic participation in the program which promotes reading.
For the contest, students wrote a letter to the author of a book whose writing had a significant impact on their life. The author could be living or dead, but the letter had to explain how the book changed the student's life, not summarize the plot of the book.
Noah and Emma are students in the Union Middle School gifted program (SAILS) taught by Mrs. Vada Elliott.
Noah chose to write a letter about the fiction novel, Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos. The novel is about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is "grounded for life" by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews blood at every little shock he gets. Excitement and shocks come Jack's way when his mom loans him out to help a feisty old neighbor with a most unusual chore-typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launched on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels, and possibly murder.
Emma chose to write a letter about the non-fiction novel, Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison by Lois Lenski. The story is about twelve-year-old Mary Jemison and her family who are captured by Shawnee Indian raiders. Mary is separated from her siblings and traded to two Seneca sisters, who adopt her and make her one of their own. Mary misses her home, but the tribe is kind to her. She learns to plant crops, make clay pots, and sew moccasins, just as the other members of the tribe do. Slowly, Mary realizes that the Indians are not the monsters she believed them to be. This Newbery Honor book is based on the true story of Mary Jemison, the pioneer known as the "White Woman of the Genesee."
The national Letters About Literature office read all of the 50,000 entries and returned the top letters to each state.