The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane


Dear Kate DiCamillo,


    Most books I’ve read are just finished and forgotten. Your book showed me a new perspective. I have many differences with Edward, but also many similarities. After a long journey, Edward finally realizes how lucky he was before he fell in the ocean. After moving to a wealthy neighborhood, I realize how lucky I am.

Edward has tragedy after tragedy happen to him and his mind keeps changing. Even though I don’t have tragedies happen to me, I still changed. Maybe if Edward wasn’t thrown off a boat, he would never learn to appreciate what he had. I used to have a friend in my old neighborhood. After I moved away, we grew farther and farther apart. After reading your book, I learned to appreciate things that you have while you still have them.  Every time Edward moves to a new place, he loses things he had, but also gains things from his new owners. He learns to appreciate what he has while he still has it. Reading your book changed the way I look at things now. Eventually, Edward gets back to his old owners and they don’t recognize him. He thinks differently about everything he does after his journey.

I think if I hadn’t read your book, I wouldn’t know what the world looked like in a different perspective.



Joseph Zhang, 5th Grade

Refugee by Alan Gratz Letter

Dear Mrs.Washburn (my teacher),

    Hi! How are you doing? I am doing well. I have just finished the book Refugee by Alan Gratz. My favorite character is Josef, not because we have the same name, but because of how interesting his background was and what kind of person he was. He showed bravery by speaking up when the other mutineers were giving in. He also slapped his father even though he didn’t want to so he would be quiet when the doctor inspected him. If I didn’t know how old he was, I would think he was an adult.


       When Josef went into the “German” part of the train, I knew things were not going to end well. He got caught by a Hitler youth, a person sworn to live and die for Hitler, but got lucky because the boy still had a sliver of good in him and let Josef off with no more than a warning. Although it was tempting to see how people would treat him if he wasn’t a Jew, it still wasn’t wise for Josef to go to the German part of the train because he could have been caught by someone less forgiving and gotten his family thrown off the train because he was being selfish. Later in the book when he agreed to storm the captain, Josef wasn’t open-minded enough to see that there wasn’t anybody to drive the boat if they held the captain hostage. When his fellow mutineers decided to give in, he still stayed angry, even if the captain wasn’t bringing them back to Germany. One event that changed Josef was slapping his father in the face. When Josef slapped his father he saved his life, but not without changing their relationship. Afterward, his father feels betrayed because the Germans came and ransacked their room, even though Josef says that if he stayed still, the Germans would leave him alone. After being accused of lying by his father, Josef feels guilty that he ever brought back memories of the concentration camp back to his father.


        One theme I observed in the book is “What you do affects others more than you think”. Examples of this are when the Hitler youth on the train lets Josef leave without punishment. To him, it is just an act of kindness, but to Josef, it could mean the difference between life and death for him and his family. When the people in the boat rushed past Mahmoud (a refugee from Syria), he pleaded them to take his mom’s baby so she wouldn’t drown. Reluctantly, they eventually accepted the baby. Although there has to be someone to take care of the baby, her mom is in no condition to take care of her. By accepting the baby, they might have just saved her life if the waters became too dangerous. Lito, the policeman who rescued Josef’s father risked his own life for somebody who didn’t want theirs. If Josef’s father hadn’t jumped, he might not have had to risk his life. If Josef’s father had gotten killed, the entire ship (except for some of the crew) would be in a sour mood. Josef’s father is like the domino that could knock over the entire line with one mishap.


        I feel that refugees are overlooked, even if they are in plain sight. Most refugees stay in camps for years, even decades just to be accepted into a new country. It is my responsibility to help refugees who need food or clothing. Austin can help with the refugee crisis by accepting refugees and starting programs that provide refugees with food, water, and shelter. Our government is also capable of helping refugees by allowing them into our country. If everybody does these things, we can help refugees begone. From reading this novel, I opened my eyes to the life of refugees, hiding and running in fear. Everybody deserves human rights, regardless of their differences. I also learned about many cases of refugees that are similar and different in many different ways. I would recommend this book to others because other than being a good book, it teaches you about what it is like being a refugee and the different cultures of different people.


       This book showed me a new way to look at not just refugees, but everybody that feels out of place and needs something they don’t have.


                                                                    Joseph Zhang


Chocolate Milk Letter

Dear Mrs. Phelps (my principal),

My name is Joseph Zhang. You came to our classroom to explain the problem with chocolate milk. You said that chocolate milk was going to be discontinued at Barton Creek Elementary. You asked us what we thought of the problem and asked us to write to the school board what we thought. I believe that chocolate milk shouldn’t be discontinued because of how all the good things in it outweigh the bad. It contains all of the essential nutrients that kids need to grow. Also, many kids like the flavor of chocolate milk. Chocolate milk does not have as much added sugar as many people think

One reason that chocolate milk shouldn’t be abolished is because it also has the essential nutrients in white milk that kids need to grow. One cup of TruMoo chocolate milk contains as much calcium as 5 cups of broccoli, which helps children build a strong skeleton. It also contains as much potassium as a small banana. Potassium lowers blood pressure. Also, a cup of TruMoo chocolate milk has as much vitamin A and D as 2 baby carrots and 3.5 ounces of cooked salmon. Vitamin A is a vitamin that strengthens your immune system so you wont get sick as easily. It also improves the health of you bones and teeth. Vitamin D is a vitamin that can be produced in your body when you’re exposed to the sun, or in this case, chocolate milk.

Although many websites say that chocolate milk causes obesity, it can be easily avoided by only serving 2% chocolate milk at school. Chocolate milk shouldn’t be stopped is because it‘s a creamy chocolat-ey flavor that everyone loves. Studies show that children that drink chocolate milk aren’t necessarily heavier than white milk drinkers. Also, chocolate milk drinkers take in more essential nutrients than white milk drinkers. Chocolate milk also helps kids age 5-15 build a better quality diet.


Many critics claim that chocolate milk contains way too much sugar. While it might be true with some brands, chocolate milk does not have as much sugar as many people think. One 8 ounce serving of TruMoo chocolate milk only contains 1.5 teaspoons of added sugars. These extra calories can be easily burned off. Many companies claim that chocolate milk is the best recovery drink. I agree for many reasons. After a tiring swim practice, I always have a bottle of chocolate milk to refresh me. I have tried other things such as water, white milk and sports drinks, but chocolate milk is evidently the best recovery drink out there. The facts behind the drink are almost unbelievable. Compared to white milk, chocolate milk has twice as much carbohydrates and protein, making it the perfect recovery drink. Our lunch is after specials, so if we had PE, we could just buy a bottle of chocolate milk to replenish our tired muscles. If chocolate milk was removed, children would be more tired throughout the rest of the day after PE. They could drink other things, but none of the other drinks will re-energize them as much as chocolate milk.


Having chocolate milk at school is not just important for the kids. All milk productions will decrease by 10% just by removing chocolate milk from schools. Studies show that in schools that removed chocolate milk, the kids mostly bought white milk, but not drink it or bring their own chocolate milk. Chocolate milk has to stay! Thank you for reading my opinion on this problem.



Joseph Zhang