Writer. Wife. Mom. Animal lover. Not necessarily in that order. SCBWI Eastern PA. Despite what my family says, I did not mean to leave them in the snow when the dogsled tipped.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Mule Train Mail - Perfect Picture Book Friday
This review is part of PPBF (perfect picture book Friday) where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books.
My pick this week is a reminder that writers don't always have to shoot for "high-concept." Sometimes, a nonfiction narrative is the perfect choice. Admittedly, it does help up the interest factor when the story is set in the awe-inspiring surroundings of the Grand Canyon.
Title: Mule Train Mail
Author/Illustrator: Craig Brown
Publisher: Charlesbridge, 2009
Themes: Culture, Jobs
Ages: 4-8 (but I think younger would enjoy it)
Synopsis: The author went along with the lead muleteer as he loaded the mail at the south rim of the Grand Canyon and delivered it to the town of Supai located on the Havasupai Indian Reservation at the bottom of the canyon. This is the only US postal route delivered by mules. The story uses the third person POV and recounts what it's like to make this delivery in the heat of summer and the icy cold of winter.
Opening: "Anthony the Postman doesn't wear a uniform.
He wears a cowboy hat, chaps and spurs."
A few summers ago, my family took the horse ride (not with the mules and the mail!) down the Grand Canyon and this book captures the feelings of those terrifying switchbacks. Every time the horse swayed, I was convinced I was going to be pitched over the edge of the trail into the abyss. It was an adrenaline packed journey. The author cleverly turned the book sideways on several spreads to give the reader a feeling for the height of the canyon walls. Mule Train Mail was a Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Book of the Year.
Activities: I didn't realize there was a National Postal Museum. But it's part of the Smithsonian. If you're in the neighborhood of Washington D.C. you can go visit: National Postal Museum, 2 Massachusetts Ave., N.E., Washington, DC 20002. If you can't get there, the museum has an online "activity zone" with a host of fun activities. My tiny local post office doesn't have a lot to look at, but a field trip to your local office is a possibility. Younger children may want to post a letter of their own and then draw a picture showing all the different modes of transportation it will take to reach its destination. Cowboys and cowgirls may be inspired to take a ride like Anthony (our local zoo offers pony rides).
Final note: Congratulations to Natalie Aguirre who won a copy of Debbie Dadey's newest chapter book, The Lost Princess. Just released May 7, the book is already on its way to her! Yeah, it's a "mail" link. I know how much I like to find something that isn't junk or bills in my mail.
What's the best thing you ever received in the mail?
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What a fascinating book, Wendy. You were very brave to take that journey. I am afraid of heights, and would have a heart attack within the first few minutes! The Grand Canyon is a gorgeous place where God's beautiful creation can be seen. Thanks for sharing!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Jarm. I was scared! I just wasn't going to let on in front of my kids. My husband and I want to hike rim to rim sometime soon. With my feet on the ground, instead of in stirrups, I feel more in control.Delete
I love the opening lines of this book. No wonder you chose it for a PPBF review. Thanks, I look forward to reading it. Oddly enough, I love the postal museum. And if you spend New Years' Eve in DC, you can watch them drop a giant postage stamp from the old Post Office roof.ReplyDelete
I've never wanted to go anywhere on New Year's, til now! What a fun suggestion, Joanne.Delete
I love that you have had an experience that can help you relate to this mule journey, Wendy, wow, I would love to do that. The first line is a great hook, and I love this subject.ReplyDelete
Pictures don't do the Grand Canyon justice. You have to see it to believe it.Delete
MY stomach actually flip-flopped when you described your horse ride!! I've ridden horses, and jumped a couple - but I don't know if I could do what you did. The book looks great...I added it to my list.ReplyDelete
The worst part is, you haven't "met" your horse before, so you're putting your life in the hands of an animal you saw for the first time only moments before. I worried mine might have a sense of humor and bump me off, but we made it.Delete
Kids will love that, Wendy! Anything to do with cowboys always goes down well and mixing it with postmen, well winner.ReplyDelete
I think the mules are a huge kid magnet, too. They are scruffy cute.Delete
This looks really cool, Wendy! I've for a partially finished draft about mules in California gold mines I'd kind of forgotten about - you've inspired me to dig it out :)ReplyDelete
You do plenty of inspiring, so glad to return the favor!Delete
Very cool book. The Grand Canyon is one place we hope to visit. Not sure about doing the horse trail though as I have become nervous of heights as I have got older...lol. Thanks for sharing Wendy.ReplyDelete
The horse made it a LOT scarier. I suggest hiking for the faint of heart. :)Delete
Sounds like an interesting read. I love stories from this period.ReplyDelete
They still do this today, Penny! This is how the town of Supai gets its mail. Old school, but effective.Delete
Wendy, I have this book and had planned to review it at some point. I love this story. I know Craig Brown. He and I studied together at Southampton Stony Brook Children's Literature Conference last summer with Peter Reynolds. He is an excellent artist. I reviewed his Barn Raising Book (Amish)last fall. I enjoyed being in class with him. Really nice guy.ReplyDelete
How exciting, Pat! I hope my review did his book justice. :)Delete
Oh my goodness, Wendy...what a great book. Living in Colorado, I can appreciate the western theme and the awesome mountains.:) I love the way the book begins...short and sweet...but it immediately lets me know where I am going.ReplyDelete
What was the best thing I ever received in the mail? When I was younger, I guess I'd have to say the post cards that brought your final grades from college classes. Now it would be BOOKS!
It is faster, but less dramatic to get grades on the computer. Books are great presents to give and receive by whatever method. Media mail is a wonderful thing!Delete