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Guestbook Entries (2849)

Dear Ms. Levine,
I have read some of your books, and my favorite one is Ella Enchanted. I also especially like Fairest. I think you are a great writer. I think Ella Enchanted is better than the traditional Cinderella.

# 2849 - Rose Storck 01/15/2021 - 13:36 - City: Columbus - State: Ohio - Country: United States
Lillian Lea McCarthy, Eighteen times! Wow! I'm so glad you read DAVE with your students. Thanks for letting me know!

Karen J. Docter, Thank you! Oh, my, studying with Professor Netanyahu. What an experience that must have been!

Sidsel, I'm so glad FAIREST was helpful and that you've found people who really see you. Thanks for letting me know!

Lily, I'm delighted you and your class enjoyed CEILING. You came up with the right answer to your first question. As for the second, historically, most marriages were arranged by parents. After the expulsion, the rabbis and Jewish parents decided to arrange marriages for their daughters, even if they were too young, to protect them on their way to their new home, wherever that might be. Loma didn't have a choice. Later, on the ship, she resolves to make her own choice the next time. Each title has a different story. A CEILING MADE OF EGGSHELLS comes from a legend about King Solomon.

Eli G., I'm happy you wrote to me, although my answer may not satisfy you. I like to put complexity in my stories, in both plot and character. Belo isn't honest with Loma. He wants her to stay with him and not marry for as long as he needs her. At the end, he's willing for her to marry the young man he's chosen, because he believes they'll both travel with him and help him. Loma didn't have a choice about her marriage, and she considers her husband too young to be right for her. The closest thing I can come to a theme is the value of strength and resilience in terrible circumstances. Loma and Belo show those. Belo's highest commitment is to the Jewish community, and Loma's is to her family.
# 2848 - Gail Carson Levine 01/07/2021 - 17:03 - City: - State: - Country:
Mrs. Carson Levine,

I am an 8th-grade student. In my humanities class, we chose to read A Ceiling Made of Eggshells for a description of the context of the Inquisition of the Jews from Spain. As we read, inconsistencies and questions arose frequently—the foremost question surrounding the theme of the book.
Many of the ideas in the book were and contradictory—for example, you constantly emphasized how Paloma wanted to get married and have children, yet she was quite unhappy when she was actually married. (Maybe this is supposed to be ironic; I’m not sure.) Further, Belo constantly was switching between encouraging Paloma to marry, then encouraging Paloma to forget marrying and continue journeying to save the Jews with him, then back to wanting Paloma to marry, etc. This back-and-forth nature was very confusing, and the repetitive nature of contradictory ideas in the book made the theme hard to pinpoint. What, would you say, is the theme of the book? Is it of conforming to community values—about taking community values above your own? Or is it about holding your personal values to a higher standard, so as to reject community values when necessary? The book gave examples of both of these two opposite ideas. Belo seemed to be the harbinger of community values, and Paloma sometimes went along with them and sometimes didn’t. The problem is, the book made it very unclear about which position was correct (i.e., which one led to the ‘better’ outcome)—especially since you ended the book without a resolution, in an open-ended manner, where we have essentially no idea what fate befalls Paloma as a result of her choices. So, amongst all of these repetitive, contradictory ideas, what is the theme of this book?

Eli G.
# 2847 - Eli G. 01/04/2021 - 10:49 - City: West Hartford - State: Connecticut - Country: United States of America
Hi Mrs Carson Levine,
I hope this reaches you and that you are staying safe. My name is Lily and I am an 8th grade student and I am Jewish. My class and I just finished reading a Ceiling Made of Eggshells and before I say anything I just want to let you know how much we all enjoyed this book! : )
While reading we came up with some questions for you.
1) Throughout the book the characters have many small conflicts with each other but it is not until the end of the book that they have to leave Spain. Why did you set the book up like that? Why did you wait so long to get to the main point? I understand why you set the book up like this though because if you just went right into them leaving Spain we would know nothing about her character development or her past. For example we would not have known about Bela or how Yuda converted to Christianity, or even how much her relationship has grown with her family but especially with her Belo.
2) In the book, Paloma would always be talking about how important marriage and having kids was for her, but when she got the opportunity she married someone who she did not even love and then very quickly they separated. Why is that? I understand that Paloma is an independent strong young lady, but then why would she marry someone just to marry?

Thank you for reading this! I cannot wait to read more of your books!
PS; How do you come up with the titles of your books?
# 2846 - Lily T. 01/04/2021 - 10:41 - City: - State: - Country: USA
Dear Mrs. Levine.
I found your webpage because I was looking for a way of writing to you. I have been loving books and reading since my early youth - books are such a big part of my life. Now I'm studying literature in Denmark, trying to make books a part of my livelihood. I wanted to reach out to you and tell you how much your writing has meant to me. I have never tried to get in contact with an author before, but this somehow felt important to let you know.
When I was a teenager I loved to read, just as I had loved great stories as a kid. Nothing would inspire me more or push my imagination further than a good story. I wrote poems and tales of adventure and hoped to be a writer one day.
But as a teenager my confidence in myself took a great fall. I didn't like how my body was changing, how the people around me seemed to change into more superficial and selfish people. I felt extremely vulnerable, like I imagine most teenagers do. I felt I suddenly had to be someone I wasn't to fit in and look in a certain way if I ever wanted popular friends or romance in my life. And just when I started to become conscious of myself, I got cursed. I got cystic acne, covering my face, my chest, my arms, my neck, my back - all the way down to my butt. I had always been able to blend in, and suddenly I was not. Everybody seemed to look at me, and I couldn't even hide it. Too young for makeup, my parents thought - and even when I tried it, it somehow just enhanced what I was hiding. I tried everything. Every drugstore product, every prescribed medicine - even very harsh ones when I became old enough for them. I dieted in different ways, cut out allergens, exercised more. But nothing helped, even with help from special skin doctors with long waiting lists, all they could was reduce it somewhat. Today I am 24 years old, and I still deal with it. Especially the repercussions of the insecurity and the self-hatred it produced in me.
The thing that helped me the most was reading. Reading epic tales of bravery and love and friendship was the perfect escapism. I decided that I would be the kind, the brainy, the well-read if I couldn't be the beauty. I wanted to work on myself, so that I would be beautiful - at least on the inside.
But I also found that way too many YA novels followed beautiful main characters, even if they didn't know it themselves (it was in the Twilight era of teen literature). This got me down. Even in fantastic worlds, beauty was always just as important as in my own world.
Then I stumbled upon Fairest. The librarian at my school library would often hand me the new books they had gotten, so that I could read them before anyone else and tell them what I thought of them. This was one of those books. And by far the one that left the longest impression on me.
Fairest was a true revelation for me. Everything Aza felt resonated so much with me and how I felt. I thought, finally someone understands what I’m going through. And it wasn’t like in all the other books, where the main character felt insecure about her looks for no apparent reason other than being a teenager (and always gorgeous of course). She felt how if was to look different from others in a way that is commonly understood as unattractive. She knew how it was to feel like everybody was staring at you. How you hoped no one would mention your ugliness, and how it broke your heart every time someone did. How people talked behind your back, how people would use it against you. How some people would treat you differently, like a lesser person, because of your looks. And she especially knew how much you desperately want to be beautiful at any cost.
Until of course she learns that she is beautiful in her own unique way. How to zhamM is able to see her beautiful htun hair and Ijori finds everything about her perfectly beautiful. The people who are important never find you ugly. They see your beauty even when you can’t yourself.
I learned that this was true in my world as well. My family and my friends never thought I was ugly; I was just projecting on them. I found my own true love, who looks at me every day as if I was the most handsome person on the entire planet – and tells me so too, all time.
Fairest gave me the perspective I needed on beauty before the whole ‘body positivity’ movement went there. It was something I desperately needed, and I read it at a crucial point in my development. I have honestly had a lot of low points with my mental health. I have not yet learned to love myself wholly. But it is a work in progress, and whenever I fall, Fairest is always there. I have read it more times than any other book I own, and to this day it still helps me when I forget.
My grandmother’s last words to my father when she was very sick were these:
You were the ugliest baby.

And I was the happiest mother.
I thought that was both hillarious and beautiful.
I will keep reading every book you write. But I’m sure Fairest will always be my favorite.
Best Wishes,
# 2845 - Sidsel Kjemtrup Ottosen 01/03/2021 - 16:46 - City: Aarhus - State: Midtjylland - Country: Denmark
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