for children and young adults
(Lacie’s winning letter follows this announcement)
The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress has named Lacie Craven, an eighth grade student from Bucks Harbor, as one of six national winners in the Letters About Literature writing contest, sponsored nationally in partnership with Target and brought to Maine by the Maine Humanities Council. The Maine Humanities Council’s panel of judges selected Lacie’s letter to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of The Yearling, as the state winner in the Level II competition for children in grades 7 and 8. Lacie will receive her national award during National Book Festival in Washington, D. C. on September 30, 2006. She is the first-ever national winner in the six years that the Maine Humanities Council has brought the Letters About Literature contest to Maine.
Lacie Craven’s family owns and operates Wild Wind Farm in downeast Maine, on the coast in Bucks Harbor. When asked about her award, Lacie said, “I still don’t believe it.” She looks forward to her trip to Washington, D.C., where both her mom and dad will accompany her. This was Lacie’s second year in a row of participation in the Letters About Literature program, which she initially found out about through a newsletter that the Maine Humanities Council sent to her home schooling group. In addition to studies and work on the farm, which Lacie says “keeps us pretty busy,” all of the Cravens play musical instruments at home and in church. Lacie plays Celtic fiddle, and has been taught mostly by her dad, David.
The Maine Humanities Council’s Harriet P. Henry Center for the Book provided local funding and program support necessary to bring Letters About Literature to Maine. The contest was open to all 4th through 12th grade students. To enter, young readers write a letter to an author, past or present, describing how that author’s work somehow changed the student’s view of the world or of himself or herself. The letters offer a chance for young readers to reflect on the work of their favorite authors, think about why reading their work was such an engaging experience and then express those thoughts and feelings. Approximately 48,000 young readers across the country entered the competition this year, with more that 700 participants from Maine. Three first place state winners were selected and advanced for national judging.
Target awards each national winner a $500 Target GiftCard and a trip to Washington, D.C., to attend the National Book Festival on September 30, 2006. The national winners will read their letters to their favorite authors during the award ceremony at the festival.
Dear Mrs. Rawlings,
I live near the ocean, under a mountain, on a farm. We raise a lot of different animals, but mostly sheep. We also hunt for our food. These things made me feel very close to the characters in this book. If you have sheep, you have orphaned lambs, if you have orphaned lambs, you have true friends. They get into a lot of trouble (A lot like Flag!) but it’s all worth it to have a little lamb that follows you and is dependent on you.
I remember Mattie, a lamb whose mother had refused to take her. I had heated up her bottle and fed her every two to three hours every day of her life. She would kick up her heels and run with me down the road, then push her little plush head into my hand. We would lay in the grass, and I talked to her about everything, and she listened as I felt her fragile little hoof and followed her tiny, warm curls. One day she got sick. I kept watch over her the whole day, praying hard and making her as comfortable as possible. I picked her up and held her tight, tracing a little swirl on the side of her face. I hoped to feel her lean her head against me. She didn’t. She was dead. I reluctantly put her down and looked at her for the last time, covered her with a towel, stepped back, and said goodbye through tears to my lifeless friend. Afterwards I ran to the barn in secret and cried into my sister’s lamb until it was time to feed him. After each death it feels like you lost a child. It is so devastating, I cry and feel like I did something wrong, like I could have prevented their death. I felt like I had trusted in God and he let me down, like He had forgotten about me. Why did He give me something only to take it away? Why didn’t He heal her when I asked?
The answer came in your book. When I read about Jody and his fawn at first I asked the same question. Why does this happen? Then I saw what Flag taught him. All my lambs had been working unintentionally to help make me who I am today, and who I will be. They taught me how to deal with challenges in my life, how to overcome, and when it seems like I’m all alone, I’m really not. If I could have changed the past and brought Mattie back to life, I wouldn’t. I look back now and I only smile. I continue to raise sheep, and always happiness prevails over death. In every way when it seems like there is no good left in the world, you see it displayed in indirect ways. For every sad thing, there’s a happy reason behind it and it makes us stronger people. We can find rest in this. Thank you for writing this book.