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Letters About Literature National Winners 2005

National Winner, Level 1: Latricia Shaw

Junction City, Oregon Dear Mr. David Pelzer,

One year ago, I read your book, A Child Called It. I am an eleven year old foster child. I remember the day my foster mom, Cheryl, gave me your book. She told me that she wanted me to take a look at this book because I was always complaining how hopeless and grim I thought my life was.

When I moved to my foster home on August 20, 2001, I thought my life was going to continue being sad and unpredictable. When I lived with my biological parents, I didn’t know whether I’d have to call the paramedics for my abused mom or whether I’d have to save myself from my abusive stepdad. My stepdad would slap me across the face, and I’d go flying across the room. I was living in fear of him. Every day I would have new bruise or scratch on me. Sometimes my teachers would get suspicious and start asking questions, but I always covered up what was happening to me at home. I didn’t want to be taken away because I was scared that he would come after me. My stepdad told me that I was worthless and stupid and that I would never amount to anything. He said that I’d end up just like my mother. I believed him after a while.

Even though I moved to a new home, at first I still felt like I was out of place with my foster family. I continued to feel totally alone in the world. My foster mom gave me A Child Called It to read after I had moved in. I had no idea what the book was going to be about. I predicted that it was just going to be about a little boy who was bullied at school and called “it.” As I got into the book, I soon realized that this was going to be a book that would change my life. As I was about half way through your book, especially the part about your mom treating you like a speck of dirt, I realized that I was lucky to have Cheryl and John (my foster parents) in my life. My perspective on life was changing as I read your words. Suddenly, I realized that I now had more love and support than other children and that I needed to treasure what I currently had and not focus on the painful times of my past. It felt like each sentence of yours was searing into my heart and triggering something inside of me that I had never felt. It’s hard to explain what I was feeling when I read certain passages of your story. I felt like the images you were creating for me paralyzed me for a nanosecond. It shocked me that someone could survive the abuse you described. Towards the end of your book, the hopelessness and distress I was feeling was falling away. Slowly, as the hopelessness and distress went away, I had more room to open up and listen to my foster parents. They told me the truth about my biological family. I had been lied to all my life, even my biological mom, whom I had trusted and protected, had been deceiving me. After I read your book, I knew that none of the abuse was my fault. You showed me that I had a voice that I never knew I had. It was the voice of my thoughts. Your story continues to help me today when I feel irritated and a bit down on myself. I know that people can be what they want to be and achieve what they want to if they are determined. Mr. Pelzer, you have inspired me to try my best to be what I want to be. I am going to have the best life I can. You have truly helped me with my perspective on life. For this, I thank you.


Latricia Hampton