I have a thing for mail. Post. Correo. Whatever you call it, I love it. I embraced the internet shopping phenomenon because it meant getting packages in the mail. I seriously get a rush when I see the mail truck or UPS truck pull up. I keep stamps and extra postcards in my notebook. Weird? Possibly. Probably.
When I was younger I had over thirty pen-pals from all over the world. I spent exorbitant amounts of money on postage, and always waited eagerly for the next missive from Norway, the Czech Republic, Madagascar or whatever other corner of the world I’d been writing to. We’d exchange elaborate ‘friendship books’ with addresses from all over. I adored my pen-pals, though I think I must have been a very boring correspondent. I eventually gave them up right before college – after all, I was off on a grand adventure (real life!).
But…I trace it (the obsession with mail) back to a childhood favorite: The Jolly Postman. The Jolly Postman and its companion picture books The Jolly Pocket Postman and The Jolly Christmas Postman were gifts from my grandmother to the family at large. They’re beautifully illustrated stories, but more than that, they’re interactive. The basic idea is that as Mr. Jolly Postman makes his rounds he drops off letters – and all of this mail is there to read in envelope-sized pockets attached to the pages. It’s charming and fun, and if you’re reading to more than one child at a time, sometimes a bit of a nightmare too. I remember wanting all of the envelopes TO MYSELF as a child. Well, I still do, but you know, we’ll forget that for now. Sharing is key. *smile*
Anyway, back to Mr. Jolly P. I believe that this book, along with another favorite, A Christmas Card for Mr. McFizz, were the beginnings of my obsession with correspondence. I’m a letter-writer, and more recently a postcard-sender. I have stacks of stationery because I actually use it. Of course, these early reading experiences with the epistolary style were shaped by other encounters with letter-type literature as I grew older. The Screwtape Letters made its mark at age 14, and all of Austen’s novels contain letters. The Diary of Anne Frank is a sort of series of letters. But letters in literature aren’t QUITE as awesome as letters or mail in fact.
And that’s where The Jolly Postman comes in – a perfect marriage of the two. It’s a book, and a highly enjoyable one at that. It’s also packaged as MAIL, with postcards and pamphlets and everything. I know I’m just a little kid at heart – because I love that. And speaking of mail…all this talk is making me antsy. I think I might go write some Christmas cards…
This British import is great fun, sure to entertain children and parents alike. The Jolly Postman goes from home to home in a fairy-tale kingdom, delivering letters to such familiar addresses as "Mr. and Mrs. Bear, Three Bears Cottage, The Woods." Every other page is an actual envelope, with a letter tucked inside. The letter to the three bears, for instance, is from Goldilocks, who apologizes for the trouble she's caused and invites Baby Bear to her birthday party.
The story of the postman's travels is told in charming verse; the pictures are delightful, full of clever detail; and the results are frequently hilarious. (The wicked witch of "Hansel and Gretel" fame, for instance, receives a circular from Hobgoblin Supplies Ltd. which advertises such appealing products as Little Boy Pie Mix.)
Recommended for: picture book lovers, kids, kids-at-heart, and other (fellow) post fanatics. Are you out there?