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Letters About Literature National Winners 2006

National Winner, Level 1: Britney Titensor

Dear Deborah Ellis,

Imagine two girls, both in the sixth grade but really quite different. The first girl lives in the arid desert of Afghanistan; the second, in the snowy mountains of Wyoming. The first girl educates herself by reading the banned books her father illegally hid, while the second attends school openly every day (even when she would rather be shopping). The first girl can only leave her house in secrecy for fear of being shot or beaten by soldiers. The second girl spends her time hanging out with friends or building snow forts in her yard. You know the first girl well. She is your courageous character, Parvana. The second girl is me. The remarkable thing is the friendship we developed through the pages of your book, The Breadwinner, a friendship that has changed my view of the world forever.

Each day as Parvana and I journeyed into the marketplace, we began to connect. I could understand the responsibility she felt to provide food for her younger brother and sister because I, too, have younger siblings that I care for. Our encounter with the Taliban soldier and his tears taught us both a great lesson about understanding people who are different. I learned that we can never know who a person truly is just by the way they look. That is why it is so important to treat all people, even our enemies with tenderness.

These lessons, and my friendship with this young Afghan girl, have changed me and my reaction to people I meet. You have given me a friend. You have given me Parvana, and Parvana will always be a part of who I have become.

Britney Titensor
Thayne, Wyoming