Several months ago, I received a press kit with an advance copy of Toni DiTerlizzi’s Kenny and the Dragon book in it. Boxes of review copies are nothing new at our house, and like so many other books that have come across our kitchen table, this book was passed on to one of my kids.
Typically, my underage and underpaid review staff aren’t too impressed with these books, but as we sat around our homeschool table that week I heard literal, out-loud exclaims of, “This book is so good!” over and over and over again. As he came to the end of the book he expressed the same feeling I’ve gotten as I neared the end of Pride and Prejudice, The Stationery Shop, or Snow Falling on Cedars. He had to slow down, because he didn’t want it to end.
Luckily for him, the second book in the series came a few days later: Kenny and the Book of Beasts. As he flipped the pages on that one, he asked me, “Are there more books in this series?” In a flash of parenting brilliance, I suggested he ask the author.
He loved the idea (he’s the type of kid who would) so he grabbed some paper, colored pencils, and an envelope and wrote a short but simple note saying he loved the books and would there be a third. Then, he drew the beast from the cover of book 2 for Tony to enjoy. He really worked on this, erasing and redrawing to make it just right.
Then, we located an envelope, searched for the author’s mailing address (an easy find, on his author website), and affixed a stamp to the corner. He ran to the mailbox, put the letter inside, and lifted the flag. And waited.
The next day he wondered if a letter had arrived yet. Then the next day. I explained how time works and that it actually has to get to the author, he has to read it and write a letter, then mail it back. It would be a while.
For a few weeks he asked to check the mail, and the weather turned cooler and he read more books and we kind of didn’t think about it that much.
Then, one early morning I checked the mail and there was a letter on top of the pile that looked . . . special. It had a fun dinosaur postage stamp and a handwritten address. I went to his bed and jostled him a bit: “You have a letter.”
That smile. His smile emanated the magic of childhood. His excitement that a real life, famous author had sent him a letter spilled over to me too. He carefully pulled the “never abandon imagination” sticker off of the envelope so he could put it on his drawing journal. He got his pocketknife out to open the letter carefully, and one-by-one he pulled out a handwritten note (complimenting his drawing), some decals, and a signed bookplate for his book.
It’s basically Christmas morning here.
You guys, if your child finishes a book they love, encourage them to write the author. The simple joy of sending and receiving mail can add some unexpected magic to their day. Mine now has these little treasures — some stickers, a bookmark — that will remind him of his connection to Tony DiTerlizzi every time he sees them, and I can already see it fueling a passion for books, art, and communication in him.
And Lois Lowry, get ready: a letter is headed your way soon.