Recommended for readers 9-13
Remember pen pals? Remember passing notes to your friends in class, or writing letters to your friends over summer vacation? I see kids with smartphones, texting one another now, and miss the creativity that came from letter writing. Letters between my pen pals and I were works of art, customized for the recipient. Luckily, handmade seems to be making a comeback, and Happy Mail is a book that wants to bring the art of “snail mail” back.
Part workbook, part guide to writing letters, Happy Mail includes over 40 tear-out cards, projects, and writing prompts to get kids’ creative juices flowing. A section on tools introduces readers to different types of pens and markers, for decorating letters; there are worksheets that let kids practice different lettering styles, and there are templates that kids can cut out to create emoji-based notes. (Heads-up: yes, this is a middle grade book, but there’s a poop emoji demonstrated on a card that reads, “You are the…” – get the meaning of my meaning? – but it’s cute, and overall, very kid-friendly.) I love the “list letter” idea, where you cut a piece of paper into strips to list all the great things about your friend, that will unfold as they open the card and read. There are fun techniques, like watercolor washing paper or masking fluid and watercolor paint to create your own personalized stationery style.
This isn’t a great choice for libraries, for obvious reasons, but it IS a great choice to give to kids, to get them in the habit of writing again. Have them write to a cousin, a friend, a relative who could use a pick-me-up. I want to create a program where the kids in my library write letters to the kids in one of my coworkers’ libraries – as soon as we work the logistics of that out, I’ll blog about it. In the meantime, maybe I’ll just go back to writing letters to my friends again. Remember how awesome it was to get mail that wasn’t bills?