The UNDERCOVER letters stream in from Zionsville Middle School; p.s.: these students want a movie!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A few days ago, I introduced Rachel Bing of Zionsville to readers of this blog.  Rachel is the Zionsville Community High School senior who has been reading Undercover, my first young adult novel, to the sixth graders of the local middle school—gaining their attention, eliciting their responses, and encouraging them to write their own stories.

Elisa, the protagonist and narrator of Undercover, is a young poet who dares to see and define the world in unique ways; her special gift also leaves her on the margins until a certain English teacher (Dr. Charmin) and an engaging young man (Theo) draw her out of a place of loneliness and toward a kind of belonging.  Do words separate us, or do they unite us? They can, of course, do both, but Rachel is clearly a unifying angel—a young woman who asked her students to reach all the way from Indiana to Pennsylvania through the bridge of letters.

Over the next few days, I'll be running these exceptional, smile-inducing, happy-tears-provoking letters.  I begin with the first five.

Alison writes:

Hello, my name is Alison, and I attend Zionsville Middle School. My peers and I read your book “Undercover”. I enjoyed reading your book and think it would make a fantastic movie. In “Undercover”, Elisa, a girl with the gift of poetry finds herself going through hard times with her family. Once you start liking the book you realize that the title, “Undercover” was created because Elisa writes letters for boys to give to girls which is ‘undercover’. If I were a character in your book, I would probably be Elisa because I am quiet and love to turn anything into a story. Also, I think I could be Jilly because I am an older sister out of two. I can also understand Elisa’s stress because I moved to Zionsville two years ago and when I moved, I was so sad that I couldn’t see my friends that often anymore. I made new friends and am happy to be in Zionsville now and I like my teachers at Zionsville Middle School.
My class and I couldn’t stand not knowing what would happen next in your amazing book. The suspense was taking over me and I was taking in every word like dessert after dinner. Your book changed my way of thinking about what can happen to a person just because of their poetic writing. When my cadet teacher, Miss Bing read “Undercover”, I was extremely overcome by the abundance of words in your story, which pulled me into your book. I have read many books in my life time, but this book was one of the best books I’ve read and I was amazed at how well you wrote about Elisa’s emotions. I hope that you keep on writing spectacular books that my class and I will love. I also hope that you will try to turn your book into a movie because it would definitely make a superb movie. I wish you good luck in any other book that you are working on and thank you for writing your extremely, beautifully written book. It changed me.

Alex writes:

Undercover is a book that leaves you thinking- it was an unpredictable plot! It was written very well with romance, friendship, love, family, and poetry! A situation in my life is actually related to when Elisa wanted Theo to like her and she cared about him. Elisa could feel her getting jealous of Lila and Theo together. It relates to me because I have wanted a lot of things to happen my way, and you’d just have to find out what happens! I liked how you didn’t make Part I and Part II about the same thing. You focused on two major points. Part I was about the letters that Elisa wrote and about love. Part II was about figuring out things with family and friends. One point I specifically liked about the book was the suspense because you never knew if Elisa was ever going to be with Theo again. If you really thought about it, Undercover would make a great movie! You should definitely contact someone about that! The character that I most relate to is Elisa. I relate to Elisa the most because I always bump into situations where I just want everything my way sometimes. It kills you when something terrible happens right in front of you, like in the book, Elisa always having to watch Lila with Theo- Theo, her love. At the end of the book, the ice skating competition seemed to bring everyone together. It brought Theo and Elisa back together, and especially Elisa’s family that struggled to keep it together with Elisa’s dad and mom “crumbling down.” Some themes in this book were friendship and love.    Undercover has taught me some lessons, such as to stay true to yourself. Elisa gave up on Theo for a while because she never thought he would leave Lila. Also, another lesson was believing in yourself and other people. This lesson relates to how Elisa thought that her family was just going to break apart when her mom and dad didn’t seem to love each other anymore.

Anthony writes:

My name is Anthony and I am in sixth grade.  Recently my teacher read out loud your book, Undercover, and I thought it was an outstanding piece of work and you have amazing talent.  I wanted to know where you came up with this idea and does this book relate to your life?  Your story was amazing and I was also wondering how you came up with part two. In part one, Elisa was just a girl who wrote poems and was an undercover high school student.  Also, have you ever thought about making this novel into a movie? I was also wondering if you were going to make a sequel to Undercover and show what happened to Elisa and Theo after the skating competition and Elisa's life. I would go see your movie the first day it came out.  I'm sure you would make the movie an outstanding story because of your great talent and creativity.  What I've learned from your book is that even though you can be pretty, you can also be very mean.  In the book Lila was the girl that every boy wanted to date, but Lila was also mean when she cut up Elisa's dress and when she got jealous of Elisa. I can relate to Elisa's character because I am a good writer too and I like to write stories just like you. I was inspired while listening to your book and I hope to see a sequel or a movie in the near future!

Cameron writes:

In class we have been reading your fabulous book Undercover. I love Undercover not only for its amazing story but mostly for its incredible grammar, metaphors, and similes. I would love for you to make a movie out of this. It would be so cool. I would see it the first night it came out. Even though I am a boy that has read Undercover I don't really take it as a girl book. I take it as a book that everyone can learn a lesson from. What I learned from this book is that some people can be really pretty on the outside, but their inside could be dark and evil, making them ugly even though they are pretty. I also learned that your family will always be there for you no matter what.

 Charlie writes:

In my 6th grade class we have had a student teacher come in. Her name was Miss Bing. She has emailed you before. I bet you have heard from her. Anyway, she read us one of your best- selling books, Undercover! I thought that it was a pretty good book. It had poetry, romance, and other things that I liked. Also I liked it because there was two parts to it. The first part was about Elisa writing love poems for other people. The second part was kind of about getting her family back together and skating. Also I wanted to know if or how this story related to your life? Also, I wanted to know what you like specifically about the book?
 Did you know that I am writing a book too? But, enough chit chat about me let's get back to the book. I really thought that this book can make a huge movie. You should ask some directors to make your book a screenplay. Just think about it! Undercover on the big screen! You could even get to walk the red carpet. I think you should totally write a second book. I have even thought of some ideas! Maybe Lila gets another boyfriend and she tries to get revenge on Theo!
Also I thought that your book had an amazing ending. I thought it had a good ending because it brought everybody together. Also I had another question. What lessons did you learn from this novel? Please share. I was also wondering if some of the characters were based off of people in real life. Some other things that I wanted to say was that I liked how Elisa stuck out from the rest of her family because her family was girly and Elisa wasn't just “girly” she didn't try to be girly she was herself.
Also I thought that it was cool how Elisa and her sister's relationship grew as their parents started to separate. I thought that was very creative. Maybe their parents going separate ways for a while was a good thing.
Thank you so much for writing this amazing book. My favorite part of the book was when Lila ripped Elisa's dress because it showed the power of Lila and how Elisa overcame it and still performed. I love a happy ending.
I'm still drying my tears, reading this letters.  I'm imagining myself in that classroom with Miss Bing and her students.  I'm going to answer everybody's questions in the final blog in this series.  For now, Zionsville Sixth Graders (and Miss Bing), just know that I'm listening and that I am deeply moved.  A sweet Easter weekend to you all.   


bermudaonion said...

Thanks for sharing these wonderful letters! I love the line "The suspense was taking over me and I was taking in every word like dessert after dinner," because I feel the same way when I read your books.

Unknown said...

It's so wonderful that the students recognize the beauty of your book : ) I haven't read it yet, but seeing that it relates to topics such as beauty, friendship, love, and family, I'll definitely read through its pages carefully!

Unknown said...

These letters are priceless and touching. And they really blew me away! These kids are so sweet and smart and I love how interested they are in Undercover and the different aspects of Elisa's life. You can tell they've really thought about your book and paid great attention to the story and so they ask terrific questions. I Cameron's comment about your grammar, metaphors and similes was great!)
They should write book reviews!

These letters are a fantastic tribute to your beautiful book, too.

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