cover image Mailing May

Mailing May

Michael O. Tunnell. HarperCollins Publishers, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-688-12878-4

Necessity, as always the mother of invention, inspired this true story culled from U.S. postal lore. May's parents promise her a visit to her grandmother, but when a train ticket through the Idaho mountains is too expensive, her father comes up with a unique solution: he mails her by parcel post instead. Postal regulations in 1914 prohibit the shipment of ""lizards or insects or anything smelly,"" but say nothing about girls, and so the congenial postmaster duly classifies May as a baby chick, glues fifty-three cents worth of stamps and a delivery tag onto her coat and sends her on her way, under the protective wing of her mother's cousin Leonard (who, not coincidentally, happens to man the train's mail car). Tunnell (The Children of Topaz) recounts this quirky slice of Americana with color and flair (a steam engine is described as ""hissing and snorting like a boar hog""). Rand's (Fair!, reviewed below) expressive, slightly sentimental watercolors do justice to the period setting. Brimming with detail, from the clothing styles to the tin ceiling in the general store and the pigeon-holed interior of the railway mail car, they incorporate a scattering of renderings of stamps and sepia-toned photographs as well, adding texture to the fictionalized account. Ages 4-up. (Sept.)