Have any of you traveled in the cargo compartment of a train through mountains during the winter?
One young girl went for a 75-mile ride like that, with postage pinned to her jacket, in order to visit her grandmother in 1914. Her grandmother didn't know she was coming--wouldn't that be the best surprise parcel delivery?
A few years ago, I got to hear that story, and the story of how Mailing May was researched and written from its author, Michael O. Tunnell. Illustrator Ted Rand worked from photographs and descriptions, and added warmth to fairly accurate portrayals of the scene. I find the story inspiring, because of the flexibility and kindness of the people. But I also find the book inspring, because it reminds me that telling true stories can be fun and meaningful to children (and adults).
It's a dream of mine to research a little piece of history to be preserved in a picture book.
Mailing May would be a great book to introduce a mail game to children. Here's one idea that can be tweaked for the age of the players:
Choose a pen pal.
Each week, send them mail and challenge them to send their own version back to you. Alternatively, the players could send something similar, plus a new challenge, so that the initiation goes back and forth.
Here are some examples of what to send:
Week 1: Send a postcard from where you live. Write about what you like to do in your city or what your city is known for.
Week 2: Ask someone in your family to secretly set an alarm in the afternoon. When the alarm goes off, freeze and have that family member take a picture of you. Send the picture with a note explaining what you were doing. (If you can't print a picture, draw or describe that "frozen" moment.)
Week 3: Pick flowers or interesting plants from your yard. Arrange them between card stock paper and flatten them for a day in a stack of heavy books. Remove one paper, and slip the flowers on the other paper into a plastic sleeve and sent it.
Week 4: Make a list of your favorites, such as favorite ice cream flavor, toy, movie, outdoor game, time of day, and bedtime story. You could even draw pictures of these favorites.
Week 5: Find or create a mad-lib story. Write a letter or postcard asking for the words you need (noun, name, adjective, etc.). When your pen pal replies with the list of words, fill out the mad-lib and send them a copy.
Week 6: Take a picture of something in your house from an unusual angle, such as up close to it or from underneath it. Write a note on the back asking if your pen pal can guess what it is. (If you can't print a picture, write down clues, such as "It is usually only noticed in the dark" for night light.)
Week 7: Make a list of the back-to-school supplies you need. Send a pencil, bookmark or folder that matches one you use.
We'll be sending mail and challenges to our cousins in Finland. Do you have more ideas? Are you going to play?