January 8 to 14
This celebration recognizes the art of writing letters. It happens every year on the second full week of January. As we continue onward in an increasingly digital world, let us take more moments to make a concerted effort to practice the art form of putting pen to paper and expressing language in its bare, original form.
We all know intuitively that writing has been around for a while. It’s been passed down by so many generations of humans that it’s practically part of our DNA. But for how long has writing been around? In fact, the first letter was written circa 500 B.C. We first used anything we can get our hands on to write including clay, stones, the dirt, walls, and eventually we made our way onto linen rags as the first form of paper around the 1300s. Papyrus was another early form of paper made popular with the Egyptians. It consisted of a reed plant that grew near the Nile River. The following century saw the coming of Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the movable-type printing press. Largely considered the most influential invention in human history, it took our written language through a major cultural advancement. It hastened the spread of knowledge and information throughout ancient Europe which gave literate people access to information previously hidden. One could argue that the power of writing and all its technological advancements spurred the evolution of society as we currently enjoy it.
Letters were always useful to us. It was our tool to connect with others who were far away or across oceans. It was used to convey information during strategic periods of battle. Some contained rhetoric that swayed political figures to convene and start a new government. They told stories of great moments in human history and documented tragedies. Their contents hold some of the greatest insight from the greatest minds to ever live and also the saddest tales ever told. Letters and notes are filled with imagination, potential, and boundless creativity. This author is reminded of a story written by Gauthier David called “Letters from Bear”. When Bear makes her first attempt to leave home and travel, she finds solace in writing letters to her friends and family about her travels, her fears, her hopes and dreams. We can find that same comfort when we take a moment to write down our thoughts and we end up finding out more about ourselves in the process.
This week celebrates the simplicity of writing letters. Pick up a pen and write to a long-time friend. Or a long-lost friend. Write to a family member who may be going through a rough patch and let them know you’re there for them. Write an appreciation letter, a heartfelt love letter, a critique letter, or simply a how-do-you do- letter. No matter the content or the recipient, this week take a moment to sit down with a pen and pad and write your thoughts into words and share them with someone important to you.
Bear can’t imagine a whole winter without her friend, so when Bird migrates south, Bear decides to follow. She’s never left the forest before, but that won’t stop her from crossing oceans and mountains—and sending letters along the way. But a surprise is waiting for Bear on the beach…
Richly told in amusing letters and lush illustrations, this adventurous story invites readers to consider just how far they’d go for their friends.
AWARDS and RECOGNITIONS
Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books of the Year List & Outstanding Merit (2021)
United States Board on Books for Young People Outstanding International Books List (2021)
Parents’ Choice Foundation Parents’ Choice Gold Award (2020)
“Readers will find this journey poignant, strange, atmospheric, and, ultimately, joyful.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“David tempers the adversity Bear faces by giving magical invention free rein, and Caudry responds with images of equally startling richness.”—Publishers Weekly
“Travel to a mysterious land where birds and bears can be the same size, shadowed forests pose vague threats, volcanoes erupt with human expressions, and animals hide in burned-out trees to escape the dangers of war.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Readers will enjoy this journal filled with mystery and wonder, and perhaps be inspired to pen a letter to a loved one delineating their own amazing undertakings.” —School Library Journal (starred review)
“A unique picture book about friendship, adventure, and the wonders of the world.” —The Horn Book Magazine