Pushing the Envelope

I love a good run of literary correspondence, and since Rohan Maitzen at Novel Readings wrote so enthusiastically about it last fall, I’ve been reading bits and pieces from my copy of Dear Genius, The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom. Nordstrom was publisher and editor in chief of juvenile books at Harper & Row between 1940 and 1973—I’ve written about her here before—and her letters, to the likes of Maurice Sendak, E.B. White, Ezra Jack Keats, Edward Gorey, and Louise Fitzhugh, are pithy and genial. You would think, reading this, that children’s book publishers have wonderfully fun lives.

Then again you might take a look at this collection of illustrated envelopes sent to Klaus Flugge, head of Andersen Press, and you would know they do. Flugge started Andersen Press, named for Hans Christian Andersen, in 1976, and currently publishes over 2,000 titles, most of them picture books and children’s literature. Illustrator David McKee sent Flugge his first illustrated envelope, and nearly 100 others have followed over the years. If anyone needs yet another reason to keep writing real letters on paper, this would be a good one. The idea of a thing of such beauty traveling across an ocean, or from one borough to another, is more than a bit magical. And imagining the recipient’s joy—well, sending something like that would be some pretty serious karma in the bank.

If anyone would like to send one to Like Fire, I’ll promptly post it on the blog and make a big fuss over it. You have to email for the street address—and yes, I get that there’s a little irony implicit in that. Do it anyway.

(The envelope above is by children’s book writer and illustrator Satoshi Kitamura.)

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