Dear World, How Are You? by Toby Little
|Dear World. How Are You? by Toby Little|
|Reviewer: Zoe Morris|
|Summary: Letters, letters and lots more letters, this is a lovely book for learning about the world from a child's point of view|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 340||Date: March 2016|
|Publisher: Michael Joseph|
|External links: Author's website|
A lot of my childhood revolved around writing letters. Weekly missives to my father, regular communiques to other family members, thank you notes for presents and treats and lots and lots of letters to friends from overseas. I loved coming home from school to see what the postman had brought and it was even more special when there was a foreign stamp on it. Nowadays I still get excited for the postman, but most of my long haul letters are sadly electronic. Instant is good, but what you gain in not having to wait for Royal Mail you lose in the excitement and wonder of fancy, foreign notepaper (so often squared paper because simple lines aren't enough) and, yes, those stamps.
I clearly didn't dream big enough, though. Toby was 5 years old when he decided he wanted to write a letter to every country in the world. This book is the result of that quest because in one of those wondrous ways of the world, Toby wrote to the world and the world wrote back.
The book starts with the background as Toby's mother, Sabine, sets the scene and explains where the idea came from (a school book about sending a letter abroad) and how this evolved into Toby's Great Idea. The rest of the book is predominantly letters – Toby's short starts and his respondents much longer returns. Categorised by country, Sabine adds an intro to each one to explain why Toby chose that person to write to, or how they found out about them, or what's unique about that country.
Letters are better than emails (IMHO) not only because of the postman/stamp issue I've mentioned already but because they're so much more personal than an email. This can be lost, somewhat, when you type up someone's letter so I loved the sections in the middle with reproductions of some of the letters received in their full colourful glory. And I was especially delighted to learn of a girl in Finland who loves My Naughty Little Sister.
This book doesn't have much of a flow, but that's understandable. For one thing, it's written by dozens of authors, some with fluent English, some trying hard in a second (or third or fourth) language. Each one answers Toby's questions but these questions are varied and random and so each letter pair is distinct in its own way. A lot of them are written by children just like Toby too, and they're original and unedited. So the tone changes from page to page, the voice changes and the topic changes. But this really doesn't matter because trying to read this all in one go is a bit overwhelming anyway. I much preferred lingering over the different stories, learning bit by bit about different counties and lives in them. A chapter here, a chapter there. Perfect.
It's hard to find fault with either the concept or the delivery here. The idea is fabulous, and the findings of this mini-research project are wonderful – interesting, humbling and entertaining all in one. Whether you want to learn about a specific country or just enjoy the art of letter writing this book is perfect in every way, and highly recommended.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending us a copy to review.
Whether you have a certain country in mind or are a fan of all things travel, our Newest Travel Reviews has some great offerings of other titles in the field. You might also appreciate For the Love of Letters: The Joy of Slow Communication by John O'Connell.
You can read more book reviews or buy Dear World, How Are You? by Toby Little at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Dear World, How Are You? by Toby Little at Amazon.com.
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