I don’t generally post fan mail here, but this one was particularly cool, so I’m sharing it with permission. (There’s no punchline–it’s real!)
Good Morning Mr. Strand,
I am the Principal of an alternative high school in South Jamaica Queens NY City. And a huge fan…(I have issues according to my students). Our students are what we call over aged and under credited and come to us to get a real deal high school diploma in two years…no excuses, hopefully going on to continue pursuing a college degree. Many have failed to attend their old traditional schools for reasons as diverse as having children of their own, incarceration, disciplinary issues or just plain “I was bored and invisible in my old school”. A typical class has students anywhere from 16 to 20 years old that have a variety of reading levels and academic skills which pose a real significant challenge for our staff. …That is an understatement…Really.
That was the “jargon” explanation above. The reality is that many of students just hate to read. Never read. Do not like to read. Or are apathetic about learning and attending school. In order to engage our students my English teachers are always looking to expose them to out of the box literature. Not the usual cliff notes stuff. Our entire existence depends on getting the students interested in reading. That’s where Owen, Ivan, Specimen 313 and Dr. Prethorious come in…Seriously.
Making a long story longer…I have been co teaching and planning a high school literature class whose focus is on Monsters in Literature. (Again big fan). We have used several works by you over the past few months…The Principal (Me) is a big fan. Wolf Hunt…Dweller…Specimen 313…Comeuppance…Which I wonder if you ever had been told was used in a high school English literature class before. I tend to think that most schools are doing the usual ye olde English novella that has extremely nonfunctional and obsolete vocabulary work. I wanted to let you know how your work has transformed a group of real disinterested readers into those requesting to sign out Kindles for the weekend…All above 17 with permissions to review your work from their guardians…You do tend to throw in a few gory details in the stories here and there, but they are older than the usual high school student.
They find your work “Gleefully Macabre” and have been engaged in your materials beyond anything I am sure they have ever been exposed to. I am probably not explaining this as well as I should…I can’t express how cool it is for my particular set of students who never read novels laughing and discussing how Ivan in Wolf Hunt argues about getting a happy meal…How they are “close” reading in class even after the bell rings asking ”why are those dogs attacking the car. Is he really a werewolf. OMG Ivan is crazy’..…Or analyzing how corrosive to himself the cursed vengeance of the narrator was in Comeuppance…(Seriously why did he put make up on…?)..or how they debated for over an hour the reasoning behind Toby feeding the bullies to Owen…One student asked another if they were ever anyone’s Owen? (Not the killing part but the sticking up for someone bullied). My co-teacher, bless the woman’s soul is deeply disturbed yet a fan of your work now as well. Especially when our students are having rich discussions of your work.
Oh..And they definitely agree with me that Specimen 313 is a love story…Best one we ever read. Students like it as much as Romeo and Juliet (DiCaprio version of course).
So…Thank you for being a real crazy and funny author. Maybe at times even better than some of those other people like Salinger or Shakespeare (my opinion of course). Our students appreciate it. Visitors may not understand a bulletin board that has pictures of a yellowed eyed… fanged monster or a man eating plant..or Ivan…But hey…we had a 100% passing rate on The Common Core English Exam.
Again thank you,
Voyages South Preparatory High School
Jamaica, NY 11434