20 Children's Books Told Through Letters
I know that so many of us live in the world of text messages and emails but let's face it, young kids LOVE snail mail!
While we get bills, unwanted advertisements and the occasional good news, kids always receive fun things in the mail -- letters from Grandma, birthday wishes from family, the toy catalog sent during the holidays :)
My kids have always looked forward to "getting the mail".
And I too love that feeling of reading a letter -- a personal note from someone that shares something special.
So this week, our booklist celebrates 'snail mail'!
I've rounded up the best kids books told through letters and also included affiliate links for each of the recommendations on the list. I guarantee that they're just as entertaining for the adults who read them aloud (I was cracking up over a few of these stories -- could not stop laughing!)
If you're using our Genre Challenge for summer reading, you can add 'epistolary fiction' (stories told through letters and documents) as a new genre for kids.
There's a lot to be learned when reading this type of book:
- Point out the details in the format of a letter (date, return address, greeting, salutation) as you read.
- Readers will enjoy learning about the variety of "sign-offs" that can be used in letter writing.
- Kids will understand that letters are a great option for staying connected to those who live far away and also a fun way get to know others through the mail.
I hope the books will inspire your child to write someone a letter this summer!
20 Stories for Kids Told via Letters
In The Day the Crayons Quit, Duncan reaches for his crayons so he can color, only to find a stack of envelopes -- each of his crayons has written a letter to tell Duncan how they want to be used! Red is overworked with all those fire trucks and Santa pictures, Black wants to be used for more than just outlining and Blue wants to color something other than water. What's a boy to do?
When Mom is expecting a baby, Mike decides he's going to write letters to his little sister to let her know he's going to be a great big brother. Dear Baby: Letters from Your Big Brother is an endearing look at the joys and not-so-happy moments of becoming an 'older' sibling.
I was laughing so much as we read this book! In I Wanna New Room, Alex writes a series of letters petitioning his Dad for a new room (now that he has to share with his little brother). The illustrations are just as funny as the letters -- and Alex's ability to stretch the truth makes the correspondance very humorous. Siblings will find comfort in the book's ending too.
A long time favorite of mine, Dear Mr. Blueberry is an exchange of letters between Emily, who writes that she's spotted a whale in her pond, and Mr. Blueberry, her teacher who shares some interesting facts about why there is NOT a whale in her pond.
Another very humorous read, Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School is the first in a series of books about Ike, Mrs. LaRue's dog, and his adventures. In the first book, he's sent to obedience school and writes how "horrible" things are (while he enjoys all his favorite things). The next book, LaRue Across America: Postcards From the Vacation, shares letters about Ike's travels. And in the third book, Letters from the Campaign Trail: LaRue for Mayor, Ike (the dog) decides to run for Mayor. The illustrations also tell parts of the story that Ike decides to conveniently leave out of his letters.
The Jolly Postman is structured a little differently from the other books in that kids can take the 'letters' out of the envelope-themed pages. The story follows the Postman as he delivers mail to some of his favorite forest friends (Goldilocks, the Witch, the Giant). In the second installment, The Jolly Christmas Postman, we find him delivering hoiday greetings.
Based on a true story of a dog who wandered into a post office, A Small Dog's Big Life: Around the World with Owney shares the travels of Owney, the dog. The story is set back in the late 1800's when the only way to communicate was by letter. Be sure to read the story at the end of the book which will explain more about which parts of the book are based on the true story and which were created as the book was written.
The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman, Tameka invites her favorite Uncle to come for a visit. Since he is unable to see her, he creates a wooden man and sends him on a trip to see his neice. The story is an exchange of letters between the two along with great illustrations that show Oliver's cross-country journey and the people who helped him to get to his destination.
Set back in the early 1900's, The Gardener is an exchange of letters between a grand-daughter and her grandmother when she is sent to live with her Uncle in the city. Lydia Grace is determined to bring beauty to her Uncles drab bakery with her seeds and 'green thumb'. A wonderful story of patience and persistence along with finding your place in the world.
Another wonderful story by Sarah Stewart, The Quiet Place shares Isabel's letters to her aunt as she moves to a new country and must learn to speak English (in addition to her native Spanish). These letters are all from Isabel to her aunt so we only learn of her adjustment to her new life. Any child going through a move or relocating to a new home will find comfort in this story!
Kate on the Coast is the story of Kate's move and travels across the western coast of America. She shares all the details (many of them actually attractions) of her trips with her best friend back in New Jersey. I love that you can pair this book with a map and follow along as Kate visits California, Alaska, Hawaii and Washington.
What happens when you turn 6 years old and haven't lost any teeth? Well, you write a letter (or 10) to the tooth fairy. Read along with Claire in Dear Tooth Fairy as she shares all the wiggly, wobbly stories of loose teeth and goings-on in her first grade year.
My daughter really enjoyed the overlapping connections of two popular princess from fairy tales in the story Dear Cinderella. Both Cinderella and Snow White exchange letters sharing what their lives are like as they deal with step-mothers, princes and as they plan to have a wedding together.
Younger kids will really enjoy this twist on the traditional fairy tales. In Dear Peter Rabbit, many of our storybook friends exchange letters as they plan to host and attend parties in their fairytale land. The second book, Yours Truly, Goldilocks is a look at what it would be like if all of our fairy tale friends were pen pals with one another. And in With Love, Little Red Hen, letters are exchanged as the forest friends plan to help their newest resident to get her garden ready.
Dear Santa: The Letters of James B. Dobbins was one of our favorite letter-themed reads. James begins the book by writing (a number of letters) to Santa to remind him of what he'd like for Christmas. As the story progresses, we find that James' attitude toward the holiday begins to shift towards more of a giving spirit rather than just "I hope that I get.." A great message for kids during a season that can be focused on consumption.
Plus a bonus book --
This is the only non-fiction book on our list but one I wanted to mention. Animals write to Dr. K. Fisher to ask some in-depth questions about nature, zoology and habitats. A few of our favorites in this series include: Ask Dr. K. Fisher About Dinosaurs -- yes, the dinosaurs write the letters; Ask Dr. K. Fisher About Animals and Ask Dr. K. Fisher About Weather.
Be sure to pop over to our Learn to Send a Letter post so the kids can also practice addressing envelopes too!