Monday, May 18, 2015

Dear Caroline, Dear Sigmund

Last week, the annual Forest of Reading Festival of Trees celebrated at Harbourfront in Toronto. My school was there, as usual, enjoying the events and hobnobbing with awesome authors. During the Red Maple ceremony, nominated author Caroline Pignat told the crowd to write to their favourite authors, to let them know how their books made an impact. I think this is just as important for adult readers to do, although I suspect we do it less often than our younger counterparts. I used to do it a lot when I first started writing my blog years and years ago. It's time for another fan-girl moment, and so for today's post, I'll write two public letters to two authors.

The 2015 Red Maple Awards Ceremony

Dear Caroline Pignat,

You probably won't remember me, although you recently made my day by following me on Twitter. Way back in 2009, I was your "caretaker" at the Festival of Trees when your book, Egghead, was a Red Maple nominee. It is oddly comforting to discover that an author can be just as delightful and enjoyable company as the words he or she produces, and I found that to be true in your case when we first met. However, I wanted to write you and thank you, not for that past experience, but for your most recent book, Unspeakable. This book took me in directions I never expected. When I first started reading it, I thought, "Okay, this is just like the movie Titanic ... star-crossed lovers, tragic shipwreck, yadda yadda." Despite my cynicism that I'd "seen this before", I was still engaged by the description of life aboard a cruise ship. Just when I thought the story was done, it propelled me into a completely different tangent. Ellie's sullen disposition made so much more sense - she was not just a rich brat, but a woman with terrible losses and great determination. Jim wasn't just a handsome, brooding, YA hero - he wrestled with personal demons that stretched beyond the shipwreck. Ellie's relationship with the journalist, Wyatt Steele, kept me guessing, but I was so happy to see that in the end, women and men can be just friends. It was a sweet victory to see how her aunt's writing was more valuable and powerful than even her land and manor, and that it benefited Ellie and Wyatt - life doesn't always reward the deserving and punish the wrongdoers, but it felt so satisfying to see it happen in the final pages of the novel. I know that my students enjoyed the book just as much as I did, so thank you very much for writing such an engaging story.


Diana Maliszewski

Kevin Sylvester MCd this year's Red Maple ceremony

Dear Sigmund Brouwer,

You've written a lot of books. As a teacher-librarian, I've read a lot of books. There are only a few where they are so good that I have to put them down. That sentence may not make a lot of sense. What I mean is that there are times where the plot is so intense, that I'm afraid to see what happens next and I have to stop reading to calm myself down and get ready for the next chapter. That's what happened to me when I read your recent novel, Dead Man's Switch. The concept had me thinking and predicting, and like King, your protagonist, I kept my fingers crossed that good would prevail, despite the incredible odds against it all working out. I really was torn - should King trust and believe his best friend or his father? The action was non-stop and I admired how clever his computer-savvy friend was to plant so many clues. The postscript with all the possibilities was a creepy counterpoint to the fiction. Thank you so much for writing a book that, not only pre-teens and teens devoured, but the educators that work with those pre-teens and teens can enjoy too.

Yours truly,

Diana Maliszewski

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