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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Special Delivery, written by Philip E. Stead and illustrated by Matthew Cordell. A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2015. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"Please be gentle with him.
Do not bend him, or drop
him, or shake him much at
all. He is fragile and very
easily might break."

"You'll need a lot of stamps,

Even before I read the wonderful interview that Julie Donaldson did with Philip Stead and Matthew Cordell at a while back, I had made a personal connection with John Burningham's Harvey Slumfenburger's Christmas Present (Candlewick, 2007). I love that book and it remains part of our Christmas collection of stories to be read every year! Now, I will add Special Delivery to my 'keeper' shelf as well.

What a premise! Sadie is a brave and resolute young girl with a purpose in mind, and the wherewithal to get the job done. She wants to send a package to her much-loved Aunt Josephine who lives alone and doesn't have much company. The package just happens to be an elephant. Sadie knows a mailbox won't work, so she goes straight to Jim at the post office. Sadie has specific instructions; Jim has a caution. When he shows her just how many stamps it will take, Sadie is pretty quick to find another option.

When one door closes, Sadie simply opens another one. Her neighbor Mary has a plane and a bit of a concern. Sadie is not one to be discouraged by naysayers. Soon, they are in flight and quickly in trouble. When they crash, an alligator catches Sadie's eye and proves reliable for the next phase of the journey.

Will Sadie succeed in her grand effort to show love and concern for dear Great-Aunt Josephine? Does she have the mettle to face all obstacles? Will she fulfill the promise she makes to the alligator as her way of thanking him for the assistance? I would bet on Sadie any day of the week, month, or year. If you want speed and unpredictability, this is the book for you. If you love to revisit a favorite story that has so much heart that you can hardly stand it, this is the book for you. If you love books where the art is as necessary to the telling as the words themselves, this is the book for you.

Matthew Cordell uses jaunty lines in pen and ink with watercolor to match the action and humor of this most enjoyable tale. The unrestrained motion and amusing details are brilliant in their execution and are sure to hold attention as young audience members pore over them once the reading is done.
Silly and totally captivating, this is a book you need to share!

In a recent post for the Nerdy Book Club, Philip E. Stead provided a perfect description of his new book for member nerds:

"Special Delivery is a book about postage stamps, and mail, and elephants, and monkeys, and bean eating, and kindness, and ice cream sandwiches, and ridiculousness, and alligators, and bubble gum, and determination, and airplanes, and hot chocolate. It's my most jumpy and disjointed absurd book yet. And, so, it's a bit surprise to me that I know that exact moment when this book came to life. One day over morning coffee a friend said to me, "Last night I dreamed I brought an elephant to the post office." "Oh, yeah?" I asked. "Where did you mail it?" "Nowhere," she answered. "I couldn't afford the postage."

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