Friday, February 11, 2011

For the love of letter writing

In this ultra fast world of Facebook, SMS, Twitter, and e-mail, I wonder if anyone still writes letters? Or even have pen-pals?

When I was a kid, I loved having pen-friends and remember the Big Blue Marble as the only source of pen-friends from overseas. I wasn't particular about the age of my pen-pals:
  • a girl of my age who lived around the Great Lakes, US
  • a German girl who I enjoyed exchanging opinions about various matters
  • a Japanese pen-pal who sent me a huge pile of beautiful Japanese stamps, which were part of his own collection.
  • an Australian lady who's about my aunt's age with 2 daughters. I loved writing to her because we would enclose interesting items from our respective countries in our envelopes. When the kids came along, I just got too busy! I should write to her again
  • Lastly, I wrote a bit to a Canadian lady who was also named Christine :)
  • one of my favourite aunts who entertained my longggggg letters and
  • one of my uncles who would send me postcards from every city he traveled to!
I can't help thinking of my old pen-friends because I've just finished reading a really nice book about pen-pals.


"Love from your friend, Hannah" by Mindy Warshaw Skolsky is about a young New Yorker named Hannah Diamond whose letter writing adventures begin when her best friend moves away. .

Since her best friend cried as if her heart would break, Hannah promised her that she would write.

And she does. Letter after letter after letter - all of which are not replied.

One day, Hannah receives a letter from a boy named Edward from Kansas who had picked her name out of a box. However, Hannah refuses to be his pen-pal because of his poor English.

When Edward writes to her again telling her about his daily chores as a farm boy and his poor relationship with his father, Hannah's heart softens and she writes to him faithfully.

Through her letters, I read about her family life in Grand View and also President Theodore Roosevelt's programme to help the working classes during the Great Depression.

It's a really entertaining book to read and Hannah is such an honest and interesting girl, you can't help but smile at her letters to Edward and other notable people.

As the book I read is a library book, this book is certainly in my list of books to own! For now, it's still available on Amazon (click here to buy online) even though it's an out-of-print edition.

If you like letter writing, then you'll love this other book:

 Judy Abbott is an orphan at the John Grier Home. She is a bright, young girl who receives a scholarship to continue her studies in college from a mysterious sponsor who prefers to remain anonymous.

However, Judy must write to her benefactor regularly to update him about her life and progress in college.

Because Judy never gets to meet her benefactor in person, her only image of him is of his elongated shadow (or silhouette) through the crack of a door.

He is a tall man but his stretched out shadow immediately reminded her of the insect, a daddy long legs. Soon, she starts to call him "Daddy Long Legs" in her letters.

"Daddy Long Legs" is another nice book that is written almost entirely from letters from Judy to her benefactor but the outstanding feature of this book is her stick figures. Judy can't really draw but she can draw really great stick figures to convey some of the happenings at college.

Of course, since the story is set in the early 1910s, college life then wasn't as happening as college life now. Yet, I would recommend this book to young girls between the ages of 12 and above because it's about an intelligent girl who grows to become a strong, young woman with a level head on her shoulders.

You may be interested to know that Jean Webster was Mark Twain's grandniece. She also advocated women's rights in her time and I think Judy Abbott is a symbol for the "modern" woman she had in mind for her time.

 While googling for books based on letter writing, I stumbled upon this book about 11 year old Aubrey who loses her father and younger sister in a car accident. Her mother is too distraught by the tragedy to look after and abandons her to fend for herself in their home in Virginia.

Luckily, Aubrey's grandmother comes to the house and rescues her because she was actually living on her own for a while, keeping her mother's disappearance a secret from everyone.

Aubrey's grandmother takes her back to her home in Vermont where she goes back to school and makes new friends. As she forms new friendships, she slowly comes to terms with the loss of both her father and her younger sister.

According to the reviews on Amazon, her grandmother (who provides Aubrey with a stable environment again after her mother's abandonment) and her friends help her to deal with the biggest tragedy in her young life.

I think that "Love, Aubrey" will be a very sad book to read because of its serious topic but I want to read it especially as it deals with a very important theme - adults who lose sight of themselves and their roles during a tragedy.

E.g. Aubrey's mother is heartbroken at the loss of her husband and son but she lets her personal grief take over her completely that she forgets all about her other surviving child.

The book has been translated into Dutch, German, Indonesian and Korean!

I don't know if I'll be able to find the book at our bookstores but I'm bookmarking Love, Aubrey on Amazon for now, in case I need to find the link later.

I can't wait to find the book, buy it and read it.

Do you like letter writing as much as I do? What books have you read like the ones listed above? In any case, if you'll be celebrating Valentine's Day alone, why not write a letter to someone special? Or better yet, read a book?

You'll never be lonely if you have a book (or a letter) to read ;-)

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