The Jolly Postman (or Other People’s Letters)

“Once upon a bicycle, so they say, a jolly postman came one day from over the hills and far away…”

So begins one of those books that, once you’ve read it, you will never forget. I can remember the first time I laid hands on a copy, and I particularly remember that it wasn’t mine.  Sadly, I never owned a copy as a child, but when I had a child of my own, I made sure she had a copy in her library (two in fact).

The Jolly Postman (or Other People’s Letters) is simply a wonderful book.  If you have never read it, the first time you do you’re in for a real treat.  Janet & Allan Ahlberg have interwoven delightful nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters into a delightful poem about their letter carrier.  But wait, there’s more! As the postman travels around delivering the mail, we are treated to opening the letters of the characters, and reading their personal correspondence.  And I do mean open.  Every other page is actually an envelope(!) containing, in the instance of the three bears, a letter (from Goldilocks, apologizing for her behaviour and inviting Baby Bear to her birthday party).  The letter is exactly how Goldilocks wrote it, and is even illustrated by the little girl.

As the story continues, we are treated to Hobgoblin Supplies’s sales flyer for the resident of the gingerbread house, a postcard from Jack for the Giant, a letter and copy of her autobiography for Cinderella from her publishers, a letter for the big bad wolf from Little Red Riding Hood’s solicitors (Meeny, Miny, Mo & Co.), and finally a birthday card and present for Goldilocks from Mrs. Bunting and Baby.  It is all sooo wonderful, as we get to snoop through the mail and watch the postman as he is offered a cuppa tea at every stop.

I will admit that my love of all things English is tickled by the essential British-ness of The Jolly Postman, but it is sure to entertain people of all backgrounds. Interactivity with a story on a level like this is rare. And the Ahlbergs have put in loads of humour!  The Hobgoblin Supplies Flyer is a perfect parody of mail-order catalogues, and “Miss Hood’s” solicitor’s threat to call in “the Official Woodcutter, and – if necessary – all the King’s horses and all the King’s men” is sure to make most adults chuckle.

There is only one caution to go along with this book: it’s not great for very young children or children who are not careful with their books. The envelopes are susceptible to being torn, and of course, the letters are easily lost if they are not tucked away again.  But the book is really fantastic, and worth the attention to care. You may find (as I have) that after reading this book to your child, you want to sit and revisit the letters while your young one has moved on to other things.  There’s just so much detail and novelty in this book, it will be tough to put it back on the shelf!

P.S. There’s a sequel! The Jolly Christmas Postman is as wonderful as the first one, and incorporates the delight of Christmas too!

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Published in: on October 28, 2010 at 3:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

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