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Letters About Literature National Winners 2011

National Honor Winner, Level 3: Ashlee BeGell, AZ

Dear Mr. Barrie,

“So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land.” I recite this to myself on days I feel loneliness and sorrow. As a child with a life-threatening disease, I was forced to grow up with a chaotic medical life. A hospital was certainly no place for silliness. I needed to be serious. I had to be solemn. When I hopped into the imaginative world of your Peter Pan I tasted a sweet glimpse of childhood that I left behind. I read each adventure you composed, feeling that every sentence was from the heart. You didn’t write this to waste useless time or greedily earn money. You wrote this to speak to children like me. Children with no childhood. My perspective changed, even at fourteen, as each word of your spirited book broadened my soul to joy and imagination. I giggled at insignificant things, like how my water bottle played a bubbly melody as it jiggled in my backpack when I walked to school. I would now lend a smile to my elderly neighbor across the road, taking her yappy Chihuahua for an afternoon’s walk.

Your book also led me to dreams that I never thought would end up in my mind. For so long, I’ve only wished for a cure and health. Now, I expect to see oceans of serenity and laughter when I drift off to sleep. Mr. Barrie, you gave me this opportunity. Soaring over the skylights of London, you brought me to Neverland. From then on, you widened my blind eyes to courage towards every cunning adventure. You taught me to keep my head held high when I fight against my sickness, as if it were a fierce pirate and we were crossing swords. I learned a friendship between Lost Boys and Indians is truly unique but not impossible. Family, you showed, is stronger than anything else ever created. I cried when George stayed in Nana’s kennel over misery that his children left him for Neverland. He made terrible mistakes, but later his actions proved willingness and love towards his family. That love is more than a simple hope; it’s a commitment.

Your story was an adventure I sought, and I was engaged to the end. I don’t just have a passion for your book. I see it as the key that unlocked the childhood I never got the chance to make the most of. I’m not sad about the events that happened in my life. Everyone has their tough days. I’m just thankful it was your magical book that triggered a new, happier stage of my life. Reading the last page was depressing, but it doesn’t means it’s the last time I’ll pick it up and jump into Neverland. Whenever I’m scared, lonely, or sick, Peter Pan is poised at the top of my bookshelf, eager and waiting to be read. Your writings motivate the starting of my own adventure, and you’re my inspiration. Who knows, Peter Pan might even show up in my room tonight, begging to take me on a journey to Neverland.

Ashlee BeGell