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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Letters from Rapunzel, written by Sara Lewis Holmes. Harper, 2007. $18.99 ages 12 and up

"You are the secret to my success as a poet and a human being. Writing these letters every day has helped me keep my heart open, to be willing to live, to keep the darkness..."

In a novel that is filled with letters from a young girl sent to P.O. Box #5667, we learn much about life...not a fairy tale as might be surmised from the title, but life that takes us on a journey of discovery. She knows about the box because she found a letter her father had been sending to it prior to his hospitalization for depression. His daughter calls it the 'evil spell' and she does her best to understand the alienation she feels from the father she loves. By sending the letters she hopes to find hope and help.

There is never a feeling that this is only about our letter writer. She has a voice that is full and just right for her age. She exhibits a sense of hopeful optimism, while trying to be realistic about her situation. And she is a bit of a cynic as well. As she writes she introduces the reader to her life, her parents and the way they are trying to cope with her father's hospitalization. Her mother is working longer hours since her father can't work, she feels trapped in the Homework Club seeking answers to her difficulties at school and she wants out. As she seeks answers she holds onto the hope that her penpal (#5667) will actually send her a reply.

Kids will often open up about issues that are bothering them when they have a chance to learn that others deal with much the same 'stuff'. This is a book that allows for that. Whether you are reading it at school with your students or at home with your own children, it can open lines of communication about school, demands, illness and journal keeping or letter writing to express bottled up feelings.

It is so worth every single award it has received!

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