Promise You’ll Write? A Picture Book for Young Friends Facing Separation

BookendsCindy: It’s hard when best friends move away. The title page spread of Herman’s Letter (2014), by Tom Percival, has a messy pile of photos and ticket stubs from all of the fun that this bear and raccoon have had together over the years. When Henry the raccoon has to move away, the friends are “devastated but they promised to write to each other and to stay best friends forever.”

Herman's LetterHenry keeps his promise when he arrives at his new home. He arrives in unfamiliar surroundings and doesn’t know anyone. He misses Herman and dashes off a letter. Young readers can lift the envelope flap and see Henry’s typed letter inside. When Herman gets the letter, Henry’s words about sunny weather and new friends interrupting the letter writing overpower the rest of Henry’s message and Herman gets “horribly, terribly, awfully . . . JEALOUS.”

Readers get to keep lifting flaps and reading Henry’s mail about the fun he is having and his inquiries about his silent friend. When Herman finally does decide to write back, the letter that Henry receives comes with quite a big surprise! This is a sure hit with young readers and might make you go dig out your copy of The Jolly Postman (1986) to follow up.

Lynn: I really loved this picture book for a lot of reasons! Most importantly, of course, the story and the illustrations are great fun, and there is nothing kids like better than lifting flaps to get more parts of the story. The adult part of me likes several other elements just as much. Families are so mobile these days that many kids have a lot of experience in leaving friends or having new friends leave. The message that friends CAN stay friends even with distances between them is a lovely, reassuring one.

As a lover of snail mail, I also loved the emphasis on sending real letters back and forth. I am convinced that there is still a lot of magic in receiving a letter in the mail, complete with that magical moment of opening and reading something from someone far away. I know, I know—I am hopelessly old-fashioned but I still love getting and sending physical letters. Maybe Herman’s Letter will inspire a whole new generation of correspondents!

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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