The Art of Letter Writing: A Special Way to Share Stories

Though most of us would probably say letter writing is low on our preferred means of communication, the written word is still essential for staying in touch. We email, text, and leave comments for each other on social media. While our means of communication today are much more efficient, there is something very personal and special about receiving a letter from someone we love. When we think of correspondence through letters, we think of history, of times when things were much slower. We might think of grand, romantic declarations of love or top secret war messages being sent this way. When we get the opportunity to read stories that are told through letters sent back and forth between characters, it puts us right in the moment, sharing those experiences with the writers; it puts us in suspense, because we only know what the letters tell us. When looking for children’s and teen’s books about letter writing, or books written in the epistolary format, try searching the subject phrases “juvenile fiction” or “juvenile literature” with terms like “epistolary,” “correspondence,” or “letters.”

Picture Books

Bellisario, Gina.
The Twelve Days of Christmas in Illinois. 2012.
Mia writes a letter home each of the twelve days she spends exploring the state of Illinois at Christmastime, as her cousin Sam shows her everything from the state capital, Springfield, to historic Route 66. Includes facts about Illinois.
[SSHEL S Collection S. B4173t]

Daywalt, Drew.
The Day the Crayons Quit. 2013.
When Duncan arrives at school one morning, he finds a stack of letters, one from each of his crayons, complaining about how he uses them.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books SE. D337d]

Luna, Tom.
Letters Forever / Cartas Para Siempre. 2012.
Missing her grandfather who has moved from Texas back home to Mexico, Lela tries to ride her bike to see him. Since this is unsuccessful, she writes letters to him until she grows up and is able to visit him in person. (Bilingual. Parallel text in English and Spanish.)
[SSHEL S Collection S. L9715l]

Moore, Marian and Kensington, Mary Jane.
Dear Cinderella. 2012.
Cinderella and Snow White exchange letters and become friends as they tell each other about the problems they face with their stepmothers and other events in their lives.
[SSHEL S Collection Q. SE. M7811d]

Orloff, Karen Kaufman.
I Wanna New Room. 2010.
Through a series of brief letters to his parents, Alex presents all the reasons why he should not have to share a room with his younger brother.
[SSHEL S Collection Q. SE. Or55iw]

Stanton, Melissa.
My Pen Pal, Santa. 2013.
When Ava writes a thank you to Santa in January, he writes back and sets off a year’s worth of correspondence where they exchange information about their daily lives and discuss their shared love of Christmas.
[SSHEL S Collection SE. St262m]

Stein, David Ezra.
Love, Mouserella. 2011.
“This is my letter I wrote to Grandmouse because I miss her. She went back to the country and I’m in the city. Mama said why don’t I write her a letter, so I did.”
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books SE. St341lo]

Stewart, Sarah.
The Gardener. 1997.
A series of letters relating what happens when, after her father loses his job, Lydia Grace goes to live with her Uncle Jim in the city but takes her love for gardening with her.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books SE. St495g]

Tonatiuh, Duncan.
Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin. 2010.
Two cousins, one in Mexico and one in New York City, write to each other and learn that even though their daily lives differ, at heart the boys are very similar. In English with some Spanish words = En inglés con algunas palabras en español.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books Q. SE. T61d]

Intermediate and Young Adult Fiction

Cleary, Beverly.
Dear Mr. Henshaw. 1983.
In his letters to his favorite author, ten-year-old Leigh reveals his problems in coping with his parents’ divorce, being the new boy in school, and generally finding his own place in the world.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books S. C58d]

Fleming, David.
The Saturday Boy. 2013.
Every school day seems to bring more trouble to eleven-year-old Derek, whose former best friend bullies him, while at home he deals with the long absence of his father, a Blackhawk helicopter pilot, and his mother’s sudden moodiness. His only source of comfort are the letters from his dad, which he saves in an old lunchbox and reads over and over, wishing that his dad could come home.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books S. F631s]

Hest, Amy.
Letters to Leo. 2012.
In a series of letters to her new dog, fourth-grader Annie Rossi relates her daily exploits and remembers her mother.
[SSHEL S Collection S. H469le]

House, Silas and Vaswani, Neela.
Same Sun Here. 2012.
A twelve-year-old Indian immigrant in New York City and a Kentucky coal miner’s son become pen pals, and eventually best friends, through a series of revealing letters exploring such topics as environmental activism, immigration, and racism.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books S. H8167s]

Johnson, Maureen.
13 Little Blue Envelopes. 2005.
When seventeen-year-old Ginny receives a packet of mysterious envelopes from her favorite aunt, she leaves New Jersey to criss-cross Europe on a sort of scavenger hunt that transforms her life.
[The Center for Children’s Books S. J635t and Uni High Fiction J635t]
The Last Little Blue Envelope. 2011.
Seventeen-year-old Ginny Blackstone precipitously travels from her home in New Jersey to London when she receives a message from an unknown man telling her he has the letters that were stolen just before she completed a series of mysterious tasks assigned by her now dead aunt, an artist.
[SSHEL S Collection S. J635l and Uni High Fiction J635l]

Klise, Kate.
Dying to Meet You. 2009.
In this story told mostly through letters, children’s book author, I. B. Grumply, gets more than he bargained for when he rents a quiet place to write for the summer.
[The Center for Children’s Books S. K689dy]
Over My Dead Body. 2009.
In this story told mostly through letters, busybody Dick Tater tries to ban Halloween and ghost stories, as well as to break up the popular writing team of I. B. Grumply, ghost Olive C. Spence, and eleven-year-old illustrator Seymour Hope.
[SSHEL S Collection S. K689o]
Till Death Do Us Bark. 2011.
In this story told mostly through letters, Noah Breth’s feuding children come to Ghastly, Illinois, to follow a trail of limericks to their inheritance, while Seymour tries to convince Iggy and Olive to let him keep Mr. Breth’s dog.
[SSHEL S Collection S. K689td]
Hollywood, Dead Ahead. 2013.
When film producer Moe Block Busters offers to make their book into a movie, Iggy, Olive, and Seymour head to Hollywood where Olive, furious at being written out of the script, enlists the help of a famed femme fatale to scare the despicable director half to death.
[SSHEL S Collection S. K689ho]

Mack, Jeff.
Clueless McGee. 2012.
Through a series of letters to his father, a private investigator, fifth-grader PJ “Clueless” McGee tells of his efforts to discover who stole macaroni and cheese from the school cafeteria.
[SSHEL S Collection S. M1905c]
Clueless McGee and the Inflatable Pants. 2013.
Fifth-grader PJ “Clueless” McGee writes a series of letters to his father, a private investigator, telling of his attempt to learn who stole the science fair trophy, thus clearing his own name.
[SSHEL S Collection S. M1905cl]


Bie, Ceciel de.
My Brother, Vincent Van Gogh. 2002.
The story of artist Vincent van Gogh and his art-dealer brother, Theo, who were very close and who wrote long letters to each other after Vincent moved to the countryside to be inspired by and paint nature. Includes drawing and painting activities.
[SSHEL S Collection SB. V253b]

Cumming, David.
Pakistan. 2005.
Letters from a young Pakistani boy describe his country and customs.
[SSHEL S Collection S.954.91 C912p]

Oppenheim, Joanne.
Dear Miss Breed. 2006.
Provides the story of life in a Japanese internment camp during World War II through the correspondence of the children in the camp to their librarian, Miss Clara Breed, who worked on their behalf to show the injustice of their imprisonment.
[SSHEL S Collection S.940.53 Op53d]

Orchard, Andy.
Canada. 2005.
Letters from a young Canadian girl provide an overview about Canada and its customs.
[SSHEL S Collection S.971 Or18c]

Parks, Rosa.
Dear Mrs. Parks. 1996,
Presents correspondence between Rosa Parks and various children in which the “Mother of the Modern Day Civil Rights Movement” answers questions and encourages young people to reach their highest potential.
[SSHEL S Collection SB. P2521p]

Rubin, Susan Goldman.
Searching for Anne Frank: Letters from Amsterdam to Iowa. 2003.
Provides a glimpse of life during World War II in both the Netherlands and the United States through the correspondence of Anne Frank and her Iowa pen pals.
[SSHEL S Collection SB. F828ru]