snowy day mail

Its snowing! My kids love snow and we had a great walk through the park today with plenty of snowballs and track making. Snowy days, which are such a rare treat, always make me think of Ezra Jack Keats‘ 1962 book “The Snowy Day” and of course, it was our bedtime story tonight.

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And soon we can make snowy day mail! With postage stamps featuring Keats’ artwork of Peter’s snowy day! When, you ask? USPS is keeping it vague by only telling us they will be released in 2017.

While you wait you can go out and buy Andrea Davis Pinkney’s beautiful book “A Poem for Peter.” My sister gave it us as a Christmas gift and I recommend it for fans of Keats. Its a lovely tribute to a trailblazing artist who broke a cultural barrier by creating the first African American main character in a children’s book. By writing and illustrating the character of Peter, Keats profoundly affected the lives of children, particularly black children who identified with Peter in a deep way, including Pinkney, who slept with the book under her pillow when she was a child.

human mail

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My sister sent me these photos with this caption:

In 1913 it was legal to mail children. With stamps attached to their clothing, children rode trains to their destinations, accompanied by letter carriers. One newspaper reported it cost fifty-three cents for parents to mail their daughter to her grandparents for a family visit. As news stories and photos popped up around the country, it didn’t take long to get a law on the books making it illegal to send children through the mail.

That may be true but according to Snopes.com these photos are staged. However there is a great children’s book called Mailing May that is apparently based on a true story. Set in 1914, A little girl travels by postal train to visit her grandmother. Much cheaper than buying a regular train ticket!

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bear the postman

letter for bear

 

I found the book, A Letter for Bear, by David Lucas at our local library. The VSM aligned title and the cute illustration style caught my eye. It reminded me of A Letter For Leo, as it is another children’s book about an animal postal worker who diligently delivers the mail yet does not receive mail himself. The two books end differently (sorry for the spoiler!) but clearly Bear and Leo need to find each other in a sequel. They were meant to be best friends and life long correspondents!

flat stanley

My sister teaches 2nd grade and initiated a Flat Stanley project with her students. Are you familiar? The idea is based on a 1964 children’s book, Flat Stanley, by Jeff Brown about a boy who gets squished by a bulletin board and then is flat enough to slip under doors, be flown like a kite, and best of all, be mailed in an envelope.

An adorable Flat Stanley, colored with crayon, and a letter arrived in my mailbox in October with a request to take the paper boy on an adventure and write back to the students about the experience. The idea is to help children learn about different places around the world. So great. So up my alley.

Despite being Ms. Paper Mail, Ms. Make Mail, I let the letter languish in a pile of unanswered mail. For months. Yes, we’re all hypocrites sometimes.

But I finally got my act together in May and sent the students an absurd and fictional letter about why my response had taken so long. It had to do with Flat Stanley escaping on the subway and reuniting with us many months later. In the process I shared lots of details about my family’s life here in Brooklyn and some of the ways we spend our time. It was so fun to write and the students apparently loved it.

Even hypocrites can turn things around.

Viva Snail Mail!

VSM Gift Guide 2013

Starting to think about Christmas presents? I am. But since my family and I don’t actually need anything I am happy to turn the gift gaze outward with some VSM suggestions for the mail loving somebodies in your life.

1. To the Letter: A Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing by Simon Garfield. Haven’t read it yet but its getting a good amount of press.

2. Taro Gomi’s Scribble It! Postcards. A book of 30 tear out postcards with simple illustrations along with writing and drawing prompts. We have them and they’re fun for kids and adults.

3. How about a set of 2 airmail inspired balsam sachets from Sewn Natural? These are kinda beautiful. And they’ll make your, ahem, drawers smell good.

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4. I am in the midst of a high school throw back with Le Pen, and olive green is my favorite color. I just bought mine at a local art supply store which in itself reminded me of pen shopping back in the day, trying out different brands, colors, and widths on the little pads of white paper provided by the shopkeeper. A set of 12 assorted colors would make a sweet gift.

5. And the best VSM gift of all is stamps! My stepfather bought me an assortment last Christmas, both thoughtful AND practical. As you know, I already suggested the Johnny Cash stamps as a gift but how about the Made In America stamps? And did you know that there are Harry Potter stamps out now? Those would be great for a Potter loving kid, along with some card making craft supplies.

Viva Snail Mail gifts!

Australian Mail

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Did you see the beautiful essay by Mark Vanhoenacker in the New York Times this past weekend? Its called Dear Emma… and its about finally meeting his Australian pen pal from childhood for the first time, face to face.

Speaking of Australian pen pals, have you read Geraldine Brooks‘ memoir, Foreign Correspondence? Brooks grew up in Australia and was curious about the world beyond her hometown. Pre-internet, her world view was formed by the pen pal relationships she maintained with kids in other countries. Later, as a foreign correspondent, she tracked down her pen pals and went to meet them for the first time, face to face.

Illustration by Jason Logan for the New York Times.