Monday, September 14, 2009

Nonfiction Monday -- Mule Train Mail

Mule Train Mail by Craig Brown. Charlesbridge, 2009. Available now.

In 1896, there were no cars, trucks, or airplanes. Everything you bought in a grocery store was delivered by horse- or mule-pulled wagons, or in large bundles on the backs of mules. Even the mail moved along the roads this way.

Can you imagine a place in 2009 that still gets everything delivered in bundles on the backs of mules, including the mail? That town is Supai --one mile deep on the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Anthony Paya delivers the mail to this town every day.

This easy reading picture book begins: "Anthony the Postman doesn't wear a uniform. He wears a cowboy hat, chaps, and spurs." Instantly we want to know more about this Anthony guy. Why doesn't he wear a uniform? Why is he riding a horse and what are those other animals tied together following him? (turn page) Oh, he drives a mule train. Look at all those bundles and packages that are gonna have to be loaded on the mules, along with the mail, before he can lead them down, down, down the wall of the Grand Canyon to his customers.

Soon the illustrator turns the book sideways, because he needs two pages top to bottom to give the feeling of the long zig-zag path going deeper and deeper into the canyon. Once the mule train reaches the canyon floor, the book returns to the wide doublepage spreads.

This book works well both as a simple picture book story and a factual description of a different way to deliver the mail. LC has put it into J383.143 -- along with other books about mail and the post office.

(Which reminds me. Something I've put down on my materials assessment for several years is that we need new books about the modern post office. The books in print were written in the 1990s and I know the handling of mail has changed since then. Anybody want to write this?)

A portion of the sales will be donated to the Havasupai Head Start program to help children in Supai develop early reading skills. For more information about this Native American tribe and how the author/ illustrator researched this book, check out the Charlesbridge site here.

Other Nonfiction Monday posts can be found here.

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