I found a very important book from 1964 buried in a box at a book giveaway.
“Linda’s Air Mail Letter,” written by Norman Bell and illustrated by Patricia Villeman, is in the “Follett Beginning to Read Book” series at the first to second grade levels. However, even at my grade level I found the book absorbing; in fact I couldn’t put it down and have re-read it several times. The plot is fast-paced, with unexpected twists and turns, and the author utilizes character development to reveal universal Archetypes. Linda awakens with a fever one morning, and her mother (we are not given her name, thus she is “The Mother”) runs into several obstacles when trying to get help. The telephone doesn’t work, the back door is stuck, and a water pipe is dripping Oh, and Linda’s father is “away on a trip” (“The Absent Father”). To keep Linda busy while over-worked Mother (presumably without the assistance of “Mother’s Little Helper”) attempts to run the household and deal with the above-described communication and infrastructure breakdowns, Mother suggests that Linda read a book or write a letter. Choosing the Active over the Passive, Linda, in her letter to “Anybody”writes about her angst: “I am stuck here. I cannot get out” and describes an archetypal familial dynamic: “My father is away on a trip. My mother needs help.”
Mother is too busy to give Linda clear direction on how to purchase an air mail stamp, so, empowered to use her imagination, Linda sends her letter out the window. Helpful Wind blows it all the way to the Post Office, where a postman picks it up. The back cover offers a concise plot summary.
In the end, all is well (a comforting lesson for the young readers of 1964, which we now perceive as an iconic Year of Upheaval). Spunky, fledgling feminist Linda informs Father that “Everything is all right now. Some things were out of order. But I fixed them.” As all Fathers do, Linda’s requires an explanation, and Linda, emerged as a successful mail artist, states: “Oh, I just wrote an air mail letter. It fixed everything!”
I am troubled that a mere four years later, “Linda’s Air Mail Letter” was branded an “Obsolete Book” by the South San Francisco Unified School District, pursuant to section 9701, 1, (g) of the California Education Code.
Perhaps, though, we can see this as a liberation and Rebirth – the tale of Linda being released from the confines of the School Library and sent out rather into the hands of “children and residents of the district,” much as Linda sent her letter out the window.