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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Licking Stamps

I love stamps. Each time I visit the post office, I inevitably buy more, just because a new design is so clever or lovely. My mom and I maintain a strong handwritten correspondence (since I left home for college almost 28 years ago), and I have saved every letter. Partly because the letters contain our history and partly because I love the stamps. Despite the opinions of naysayers, I think sending a letter is a good thing. I do not know a single person who does not like to receive a real letter in the mail (as opposed to junk mail or bills).

Eben McAllister, the main character in Betty Birney's book The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs, is on a quest for seven wonders in his small town. Having been transfixed with the images and descriptions of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, he was challenged by his father to find seven in Sassafras Springs, Missouri. If Eben can do it, his father will buy a train ticket for him to visit cousins in Silver Peak, Colorado. The year is 1923, and Eben believes if there were wonders to be found, he would have known about them by now. Still, he cannot resist the possibility of travel.

When he reaches the leaning-to-the-right shack of a man named Cully Pone (whose trousers are held up by a piece of rope and still hang dangerously low), Cully immediately claims to have a wonder...."the doggone doggonedest" of wonders, in fact. Eben listens to the fascinating story of a rainmaker who came to a Missouri county after years of drought, when the creek was so dry there was not enough there to wet a postage stamp. That is when the fourth grade listeners look at me with curiosity. They have licked envelopes, but stamps simply come from that sheet, like stickers. I explain that we used to have to lick stamps...and not that long ago either (or at least it seems that way to me).

With only 12 school days remaining, I regret that we will only join Eben for his discovery of three wonders. The readers will need to check out the book from the library this summer to finish the story.


  1. I loved reading this book! And: as you know, I love paper letters & stamps & I do the same at the post office. "Do you have any pretty ones today?" I am known to ask. Oh, do keep those letters between you & your Mom. my father became my penpal later in life & I treasure his letters.
    YOU will be receiving a new postage stamp soon, attached to an envelope containing a letter. No, it won't be licked, but it will be pretty!

    1. I should have known you would like stamps, too, my friend! I adore the new vintage seed packets. I am going to the post office again tomorrow morning.

    2. I know, the seed packets are refreshingly pretty!! "Hi, it's me again. Can I buy some pretty stamps?" By this time, you might have received a packet from me with some pretty stamps...

  2. I definitely support your decision to keep writing; I feel the same. One of my favorite books is _Postmark Paris_ a wonderful little book by Leslie Jonath with colorful stamps and narrative for each one. Several years ago I "scored": and found several copies at Half Price books and I'd buy more if I could get my hands on them.