The Book Thief

Dear Student Who Stole My Book,

Listen – I get it. The book is wicked cool. That’s why I read it in the first place and that’s why I recommended it to all of you as my students. So, I understand why you wanted to take the book and read it. I kept it right there – smack dab on our classroom shelf – for that very reason. I want you all to read good books and I want to recommend good books to you. I’m happy to see them in your hands.

But the problem is, you took it and you never returned it.

I feel sad because, as I said, I really do love that book. (It was also expensive, but that it not the reason I write this letter to you, wherever you are). I read the book once to myself, and then I read it twice to my two older sons, and then I brought it to the classroom for all of you. The story is wonderfully told; the characters richly drawn; and the illustrations are like some magical door to the story itself.  The book is a work of art.

I’d like to think that you did not really intend to take the book and keep it. I suspect you were as engrossed with it as I was, and when you had finished it, maybe you read it a second (or even third) time, and then realized: you could not bear to part with it. I doubt that you just plumb lost it, though, because the book is just physically HUGE. There is no way this book gets lost on anyone’s shelves. No way.

I can even understand the impulse to pilfer it. I love books.  I love words on the page and the stories that unfold in our minds. I love how writers connect to readers, who connect to characters. When I find a book that stirs something special in me, I want to own that story and keep it close to my heart.  I get it.

To be frank, I even remember taking a book from a teacher once (it was a Jules Verne story that sparked something in me that I had not felt before) because I could not imagine NOT having that book in my bedroom, but guilt got the better of me. I slipped the book back unnoticed onto my teacher’s desk on the last day of the school year. Years later, I found a similar edition in a used bookstore. It was as if the story and I were at some unexpected reunion together, so happy was I to have it back in my hands.

You? You didn’t do that.  You never returned the book. I’m sad to say that I don’t expect it will happen, either, given that you are now in another grade in an entirely new school.  A year has passed. I’ve given up the book for dead.

That said, I still hope the book inspires you – not with guilt (OK, maybe a little) but with the possibilities of what writing can do to move you, to engage you, to push you into action through the words on the page. If that book was powerful enough to move you to steal the book, then maybe another story will be powerful enough for other things – more positive things.

There may yet be a day when I come into my classroom one morning and see the book sitting there, balanced on the corner of my desk. Maybe there will be a little anonymous note attached. Some words of your own making about how sorry you are that you never returned The Invention of Hugo Cabret and how you hope I will forgive you for what you did when you swiped it.

I am all about forgiveness … if I get the book back.

Sincerely,

Mr. Hodgson

Kevin Hodgson teaches sixth grade and lends out books left and right. Most of them come back. He blogs at Kevin’s Meandering Mind (http://dogtrax.edublogs.org/)