Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Snail Mail celebrates the art of letter-writing!

Snail Mail, by Samantha Berger/Illustrated by Julia Patton, (May 2018, Running Press), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0-762462-51-3

Recommended for readers 4-6

This adorable story celebrates the special touches that correspondence sent by “snail mail” – mail sent (GASP!) without electronic communication. Real letters! Birthday cards! Letters to Santa, postcards, and love letters! In Samantha Berger’s latest book, four snails (Dale Snail, Gail Snail, Colonel McHale Snail, and UmbĂ©rto) trek across the country to deliver a special letter from a Girl to her friend, a Boy. As they travel, they take the time to explore the country; the deserts, canyons, rainbows and sunsets, experiencing beautiful and not-so-great weather, until they arrive in a giant city and find the Boy.

Snail Mail is a love letter (wink) to slowing down and enjoying life. It’s about a handwritten letter and why they’re so much nicer than emails and texts; it’s about taking the time to write a letter, see a sunset, road trip across the country and experience life. As the author writes, “Although it took much longer, everyone agreed that some things were just A LITTLE more special when they were delivered by Snail Mail.” The snails each have their own personality, and work together to bring the Girl’s letter on a journey to its recipient, always uttering their Snail Mail Promise, “Neither rain, nor snow, nor heat, nor hail will stop a snail from bringing the mail.” Letter delivered, the snails are rewarded with their own mail: medals and a congratulatory letter; “something they could have only gotten through Snail Mail.”

Snail Mail is a thoroughly enjoyable story that would be adorable to follow or start off a program on letter writing and pen pals. I found this cute graphic organizer on This Reading Mama that would be great for teaching the parts of a letter to younger readers, and Reading Rockets has a nice introduction to letter writing for kids. has a starred review from Kirkus.

(Pair this with Dashka Slater’s Escargot and discuss: are Escargot and Umberto related? They share a common fashion interest!)

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Happy Mail rejuvenates the lost art of letter-writing

Happy Mail, by Eunice Moyle, Sabrina Moyle/Photographs by Alex Bronstad, (Sept. 2017, Walter Foster Jr.), $14.95, ISBN: 9781633223677

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?