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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

The Mighty Lalouche Contest (which I don’t normally do, but this one is sort of too cool to ignore)

Hidy-ho, faithful readers.

A blogger might field any number of requests to host contests for new books on their blogs.  And generally speaking, you could be forgiven for almost always politely declining. “No”, you might say, “I just don’t run that sort of blog”.  It is the rare book that snaps me out of such a funk as this, and the rare artist who catches my attention fully.  Such is the case today with Sophie Blackall and her work on Matthew Olshan’s The Mighty Lalouche.

Best described as a story about French boxing, electric cars, and heroic postmen, Olshan’s text is sublime while Sophie Blackall’s art truly shines.  Which brings us to today’s contest.  Or, as we like to call it:


The rules are simple.  Share in the comments of this post the BEST package you have ever received in the mail. I’m talking the number one best.  Maybe it was a hand tatted doily from your Great-Aunt Gertrude.  Maybe it was a live snail named Larry.  Maybe it was a flat-screen color TV from somebody you thought died thirteen years ago.  Whatever it might be, I want you to tell me about it.  Why?  Well, after tell me your story a randomly selected winner will receive a hand-wrapped parcel from Sophie Blackall.  What might such a package resemble?

Observe.  From the woman herself.


Brown Paper


Stamps and stamp pads



Glue stick

Stamp for sealing

Step 1: Cut off enough brown paper to cover the front and back of the book and overlap a bit. Parfait!


Step 2: Fold your book into a parcel – just like a Christmas present! My mother always told me to tuck the paper edges under and crease along the seam; it’s more chic this way.


Step 3: Tie your parcel up with string – they didn’t use sticky tape in the 19th Century! See if your friendly baker will give you some of his red and white stripy string. That’s the best kind of string. Super!


Step 4: Decorate your parcel with stamps. If you are going for a classic French look, be restrained with these stamps. If you don’t care, Allez! Stamp away to your heart’s content.


Step 5: Seal the back of your letter with wax. I give you permission to cheat and buy modern wax. It comes sized for glue guns for easy application! Très bien!


Step 6: Slip your letter in the front of the parcel…






(Disclaimer: If you want to send this through the real, modern mail, you’ll need to enclose it in another envelope, otherwise your letter may go astray. Also the Post Office is down on string. Bah!)

Bah indeed.  In any case, YOUR package might be even more elaborate than this one.  Who’s to say?  The woman has a tendency to be artistic.

Now while you ruminate on what your best package of all time was, here is a response I received when I grilled Sophie on why she used the style she did for this book.  Here is her answer.

When I sat down to make the first sketches for The Mighty Lalouche, I found my drawings to be frustratingly two dimensional. I wanted to feel you could step into Lalouche’s world. With this book, I was also keen to try something I’d never done before. Being a devil for punishment, I decided to make the book in tatebanko, Japanese paper dioramas. I drew, painted, and cut out thousands of tiny pieces of paper to make Parisian streets and boxing-ring crowds and Lalouche’s cozy apartment. Often, I sneezed and lost a bunch on my studio floor and had to start all over again. I went through many Band-aids. Once the pieces were assembled into scenes, they were lit and photographed. Most pictures books take me around four months to complete; The Mighty Lalouche took nearly two years!


All right, time’s up.  Tell me your mail based joys and we’ll have a good old-fashioned lovefest for our good brave postal service.

What has truly floated your boat?

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. I’m still back on the sealing wax. It comes sized for glue guns?

  2. Mike Jung says:

    My best package was a very recent one. I had a friend in high school, guy by the name of Chris Eliopoulos – we were very tight, with a mutual interest in illustration and comic books. We spent a whole lot of time filling up sketchbooks with our drawings of superheroes and other assorted stuff. After high school we lost touch with each other due to communication breakdowns and our respective struggles with life, which felt like a big loss.

    We went on with our lives until 28 years later, when Julie, an old friend of ours from high school suddenly passed away. In the ensuing wave of online communications about Julie, Chris and I reconnected. We talked, we cleared up some long-ago mysteries about the dissolution of our friendship, and discovered that we still could be and wanted to be friends. It turns out we’re both recent additions to the ranks of kidlit professionals too!

    A few days later I got a package in the mail from him – it turns out that he’d kept a stack of my old sketchbook pages from high school. We hadn’t been in touch for almost 30 years, but he kept those drawings in pristine shape for all that time anyway, then sent them to me. His suggestion was to frame one of them, which I’m going to do, but I’m not going to frame one of my drawings, because that stack of carefully preserved pages included one of his. There’s a drawing of the Thing (THE THING IS REALLY HARD TO DRAW), a portrait of Iron Fist, a couple of anatomical studies.

    A Chris Eliopoulos original, way back before he joined Marvel Comics, wrote his own books, scored those Eisner nominations for FRANKLIN RICHARDS and COW BOY, and landed a deal to illustrate Brad Meltzer’s PB series. A drawing he very likely created while hanging out in the basement of my parents’ house. THAT’S the one I’m going to frame. And that’s my best package in the mail, ever.

  3. Julia Yates Brunet says:

    The best that our family received was the massage table we had ordered for our daughter who was studying in massage therapy. The best we sent was a box of home-made goodies we sent to a friend who was in Afghanistan. We made biscotti and very sturdy cookies which would make the journey unharmed (we hoped) and threw in some coffee for good measure. Our friend was delighted and shared with his friends posted there as well.

  4. Chelsea C. says:

    The best package I ever received was pretty unremarkable in a lot of ways. While studying in France my junior year of college, my mom sent along a care package of the usual goodies: photos, cards from family members, maybe some candy, I don’t really remember. I often felt like these packages were filled with a random assortment of items lying around the house, in this case, confirmed by the fact that the package included a cloth pencil case in the shape of a cat. I remember being bewildered by this object – why would my mother think I needed a pencil case, and a cat-shaped one at that? I did not really think of myself as the type to own a cat pencil case. Still, I was a long way away from home, and commuting to classes every day, so I filled it with writing utensils and stuffed it in my backpack expecting to forget about it. It has become an integral part of my life. It stayed in my backpack all through college and grad school, always available to provide me with a number of different writing options, and now lives in my purse. The best part is that every time I pull it out to get a pen, someone inevitably comments on it, and I get to share the story and remember not only my time abroad, but my mom and her care packages. I’ve become oddly possessive of the thing. 🙂

  5. The best package I ever received was a FedEx envelop containing a small black and white photo of a sad Russian toddler who then became my daughter.

  6. What a fantastic looking book/package. Hm, favorite mail-based joy. Probably one I got when I had been away from home for about two years. A friend sent me an old fashioned brown paper envelope sealed with wax. Inside was a simple red paper crane. Warmed my heart.

  7. I love packages, and I love Sophie Blackall. It’s very difficult to pick the BEST package. “Best” can mean many things at different times in your life, but I’m going to go for the package that kept on giving: A couple of years ago, maybe three, my sister-in-law and partner sent us a heavy box for the holidays. It held a log in a plastic bag. A gnarly, moldy log. There were instructions, of course, and we followed them. A few weeks later the log started to grow mushrooms. Beautiful, delicious shiitake mushrooms. The log kept giving for months, and then we ceremoniously buried it in our compost bin to return its nutrients to the soil. Gone but not forgotten, a great gift.

  8. Hands down, the best package I ever received was a parcel of hand-made rice Krispy squares and drawings from my sweet nephew. There was no special occasion and it was a complete surprise. I had recently been rejected from the school of my dreams and was feeling so low. I remember crying tears of joy and gratitude when I opened it. It completely put things into perspective for me. Why was I so sad when my life was so wonderful? I will never forget that moment. And I have to say the treats were so good (despite being made by grubby little 4 year old hands).

  9. Best parcel I ever received included an old love letter from middle school that my mom found when she was cleaning out the food pantry (no idea how the letter got there). She sent it to me overseas almost 20 years after it had been written. It was from a nice boy in my class, and he had wanted me to respond yes or no to going out with him by putting a letter in his locker. But I never saw the letter until my mom sent it in the mail. It was sort of a missed connection that made me smile.

  10. Temim Fruchter says:

    Okay. I loved this post. And I’m tossing my hat in the proverbial ring because this is awesome and so is Sophie.

    The best package I have ever received would have to be a long tube of plums. Last summer, I was fiercely courted — in the most romantic and old-fashioned way — by someone almost solely through good old-fashioned correspondence. We sent books and poems and maps with clues to hidden and buried things. But the moment that stole my heart was the tube of plums, unprompted, unexplained. It felt like the most gorgeous and unexpected thing that could possibly come in the mail. (We are still together. Obviously!)

  11. Sabrina Lau says:

    I am a big fan of Sophie Blackall’s work, ever since “Wombat Walkabout”, and came here from her Facebook page. I am lucky to have received so many wonderful packages, it was difficult to pick just one.

    In 2008, I had just moved to NYC and had lunch in a little Thai restaurant on Macdougal Street. They had this unique chandelier there, clear lucite beads with accents of blue. I coveted it, and began a frustrating search for a like model. I even offered to buy it off of the owner. A friend came down from Canada to spend some time with me whilst nursing her latest heartbreak, and she joined me in my chandelier quest. When she departed, she accidentally took my housekey with her and offered to mail it back. I was puzzled to receive a package notice in the mail (why wouldn’t the key fit in my mailbox?), but I biked over to the post office.

    This package would not fit on my bike. This box contained an entire chandelier, purchased from Toronto’s “Chandelier District”, apparently. It was a vintage brass frame, wrapped in a deconstructed pillow. She included my housekey, and also some starter chandelier beads, so that I could build the chandelier of my dreams.

  12. Roxane Stoner says:

    The best package received in the mail was sent by my friend Shezelma. We had done a pay it forward kind of game where you were making and sending handmade gifts to five people that would sign in your facebook entry. She had signed in mine and I didn’t expect anything from her, as she was suppose to send things to the people signing in to her request. Nevertheless she sent me a delightful package of her handmade paper. Different sizes, colors and textures they are all treasures to me. An unexpected delight.

  13. I once received a package from Grace Lin. I have to say just opening the package blew me away. Not only was there a beautiful book, but there was a handmade note card in a small gold envelope, a shimmery gold paper band wrapped around the book and sealed with a sticker bearing her logo, and best of all, a beautiful paper crane attached with gold thread strung in beads. This paper crane still hangs form my desk lamp. You can see a picture of all this on an old blog post.

  14. Elizabeth Bird says:

    I am not in this game (obviously) but I had to at least mention that I absolutely love these. I think I shall have to start a band now called Tube of Plums. Also, this is my best package:

  15. One thing that just tickled me to no end was when a fellow illustrator mailed me the cutest orange corduroy pocket purse. On the front flap- embroidered-was one of her woodland critters I loved so much. She did it out of the blue, and I smile whenever I use it. It’s what I use when I do sketchcrawls, so the smile is almost permanent on those days. 😀

  16. One of the best things I got in the mail was a series of homemade cards from my parents when I was at writing camp (really) in high school. Each one had a line of a poem that my dad composed, and I had to wait to get all of them to read it. The anticipation between cards was endless and a big part of the fun!

    Also: yes, glue gun wax blows my mind.

  17. When I was in college during my junior year, I had the opportunity to go to Europe for the summer with my best girlfriend. My boyfriend, at the time, broke up with me before I left. “It’s for your own good, you should be free for a trip like that” he said. (Not my idea). This was pre-computer world, phone calls were far too expensive and out of the question. He knew I had one location at the end of my journey, I gave him the address. I sent him letters and postcards from Rome, Florence, Venice, Assisi, Siena, Zurich, Base – hoping that even though we had broken up we could still be “friends” although I was still madly in love with him. I had no idea how he felt upon receiving all the correspondence I sent him. It was a one way street. After almost two months, I reached my destination in Spain and found a bundle of letters – from my family and friends and not one from him. I understood at that point, it was really over. I returned home a couple weeks later and was getting ready to return for my last year in college, where he would be, too. My “ex” boyfriend reached me by phone – I was short, curt, and at first, would not even take his phone calls. He said he got all my letters and how it made him realize how much he still loved me. Then he claimed he sent ME letters to the address I had given him in Spain. I told him everyone else’s letters had arrived but not his and I was suspect. But he claimed he did and it was always a sore spot and I always wondered. Sometime around December when I was knee deep in art school, a package arrived, addressed to me from Spain. It appears that all his letters had been sent to the wrong address and someone (letter angel) eventually bundled them all up and sent them to my address here in the states. I still have them today….almost 30 years later, right next to our marriage certificate!

  18. Chrystal says:

    The best package I ever received was a silpat with a little note written on the front that simply said “Please permit this small present to help perfect your pastry pursuits.” It was the beginning of many letters and packages back and forth between him and I. We are getting married this fall. 🙂

  19. Jennifer Ali says:

    On our first wedding anniversary, my husband and I received a Super Nintendo console in the mail from my parents (we were in Chicago and the parents in NJ). An unexpected surprise but it survives along with our marriage 20 years later, although now we have moved on to an XBOX 360.

  20. Bernadette Mount says:

    The best package I ever received was one that never actually arrived at my doorstep. I was living in the Philippines on my first ex-pat experience. It was hard – I had two small children, and lonely – my husband traveled almost non-stop. My mom kept sending me packages to cheer me up, things we had forgotten, things we couldn’t get, things to entertain the kids. But, they never arrived. I tracked them as best I could and hounded my mailman. Until one day I visited the central post office in person where I cut through layers of red tape until someone took me behind the scene to my mailman’s desk. There amongst many other leftover, forgotten mail was my stack of packages. Most had been opened and pilfered but I felt a sense of triumph in having tracked them down. I told my mom to stop sending packages!

  21. I think the best package I ever received was a an old used clunkity computer when I was about 13. I wanted a computer so badly, and then one day, out of the blue, I received a package in the mail from my father. I reached in through the packing peanuts and pulled out a keyboard! YES!!! At the time, I think I just wanted to chat with my friend at AOL. But that old computer led me to an interest in computer art and eventually to a career in graphic design.

  22. I remember getting packages from my English granny. They were always squishy and wrapped in this thin brown paper. The row of stamps with queens on them were always cut out and saved. They usually contained something knitted and itchy, but the wonder of its long journey across the ocean and the multiple layers of wrapping were enough to make eyes pop at the sight of them.

  23. Katie W says:

    The best parcel I ever received was from an illustrator whose work I loved. I was doing a presentation on picture book marketing for SCBWI and wrote to various illustrators asking if they would send their marketing pieces they has used in the past. I hoped for maybe a postcard, bookmark or business card. I almost fainted the day I came home and there was a large box from Peter Brown on my doorstep. I was so excited as it was filled to the brim with postcards, books marks, cards. But the sweetest item was a flower pot with a packet of seeds that promoted his book “The Curious Garden”. I was so blown away by his generosity. And the illustrators LOVED looking at his pieces. I have brought them to more than one talk. I could look at Sophie Blackall’s work all day. She is amazing. While I love “Missed Connections” my 3 year old holds her sides laughing every time we read “Are You Awake” In fact, she likes to reenact that book early in the morning on the weekends.

  24. The best package I ever received was a seemingly unimpressive cardboard box that I found waiting for me on my bunk at summer camp. The summer I turned 14 I went to sleep away for the very first time, and I refused to admit (even to myself) how monumentally homesick I felt. After a week and a half, I received my first package from home. Inside that plain cardboard box, there were letters from my parents, sister, and grandmother; my favorite book; a mix tape; some contraband gummy candy; and a pair of belated birthday concert tickets (to see, as I referred to them at the age of 14, my ALL TIME FAVORITE BAND EVER) for the end of the summer after camp. Hands down, the best package I have ever received.

  25. Lori H. says:

    It was my first year teaching Elementary School in a town 2 hours away from home. My dear friend and school chum, Beth, took it upon herself to send me little care packages throughout that challenging year. One, in particular, delighted me and the mail carrier even smiled! It was an empty litre plastic bottle into which she had put little goodies using Easter grass as filler. The contents are long forgotten (or eaten) but the feeling….. I felt like a little kid opening that package. It lightened my heart for the rest of the day.

  26. The best package I every received was sent to my family growing up from a doctor my mom had worked for to thank her for being kind to him when he still came in the office to visit. It was a ham. I remember being amazed as a kid to open a box to find meat.

  27. Sophie Blackall says:

    Okay, so I need a few moments to recover from reading these. I confess I got all tingly more than once and choked up several times. I want to drop everything this minute and illustrate your stories and turn them into a book. Vive la poste!

  28. One of my favorite packages ever came a few months ago. A project at work went badly, and for weeks I was in mourning for my career, my talents, my life. Also, probably, for the sun… All I wanted was for someone to leave cookies on my doorstep. Just one or two cookies. Just enough to know that I was on someone else’s radar.

    And then, one day, a package came in the mail. And it was COOKIES!!! My cousin sent them, made from a recipe from my beloved grandma. Alyson just thought I could use some cookies. Her daughter made me a duct tape rose, so that was pretty darn cool, too.

  29. Jennifer in GA says:

    I didn’t receive it personally, but I helped send it! My brother was on a mission trip for our church for two years. Both years on his birthday, my grandmother sent him her famous Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake, complete with fudgey icing. She stuck toothpicks with marshmallows on the end so the cling wrap wouldn’t stick to the cake. She then wrapped it in tin foil, then packed it in a bog box with tons of bubble wrap and tissue paper so it would stay as stable as possible. She lives in a small town with a tiny post office, so the post mistress took extra special care with the package. Believe it or not, the cake made it (mostly) in tact! It was a little smushed where the package has been flipped around. My brother said he cried when he got the package, mainly because he wasn’t expecting it, but because my grandmom took so much time with it! She has Alzheimer’s now and can’t remember much, but this is definitely a treasured memory!

  30. I received my favorite package when I was a freshman in college. It was my first birthday away from home and I hadn’t been having a very good semester, so I was really depressed. My birthday is on November 1, which usually always falls on the same weekend as the nationally recognized high school rivalry football game between the Canton McKinley Bulldogs (my alma mater) and the Massillon Tigers. When I was younger, my dad would take me to see my cousins play in these games and each year, he would buy me a Nerf football. I hadn’t received a football in years, so when I opened up my birthday package and found a green and black football from my dad, I just thought it was the best thing ever! I’ll never forget that. It let me know that I will always be his little girl with a touch of the son he never had mixed right on in. 🙂

  31. Thank you, Elizabeth! If you are going to break with your tradition, I cannot think of a better choice than Sophie! There may be other “best” parcels than the one that first popped into my head, so I’ll run with it (hoping my mother isn’t reading this because it wasn’t hers). Years ago I selected a few different charity organizations and “adopted” several children. I was skeptical that the children would even receive the donation, but I began to receive thank you notes with the photos of sad children. This went on for a few years and I saw that the children were growing, and I began to believe that this was an authentic connection. So one holiday I included $50 to the little girl in Brazil. I had forgotten about it until one day when a larger than normal parcel was delivered. Curious, I opened the folder inside and found several pages of hand written notes, from her! They were translated, and she had adorned several pages with her art work. As I began to read a letter from her mother, I began to get misty eyes as she described how her daughter now had her own room, and a real bed instead of a mattress on the floor. She had a couple of new outfits for school, new shoes, and some art supplies. The mother also explained that the monthly gift I was sending allowed her daughter to attend the local school, and receive a much needed lunch. Then I turned the page and there she was. . . . the biggest smile from ear to ear, holding up her art, and wearing shiny new pink shoes. I was rather shocked at how far what seemed like not much money here in the States was enough to change a little girl’s life. Eventually the family graduated from the program but my heart was changed by that simple parcel.

  32. The best package I ever got in the mail? A totally unexpected box from my aunt containing a long white coat with beige and gray polka dots on the lower half. It was lovely and for no reason at all — the best kind of gift.

  33. The best package I ever received was a complete surprise and it was delivered on my birthday. As a librarian I often comment in listservs or blogs and I had mentioned how my favorite illustrations of that year were of Taeeun Yoo’s from Only a Witch Could Fly. Someone from the publishing house I presume saw this post and sent an original print of Yoo’s work to me. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the correct Library or address for me. It was sent to one library and then another and then finally returned to the post office where they forwarded it on to my home address! I don’t know how they did that but I received it and it was the best birthday surprise ever.

  34. My favorite package happened a mere few weeks ago, when I was nostalgic for our family’s trip to India and Sri Lanka two years ago the same week. The rain outside and the damp cold only made me feel worse, so I buried myself in blankets and focused on the upcoming SCBWI conference that I was helping with, and pulled myself through that with very little energy to spare. Upon my return home, my daughter shouted that I had a package. And no, it didn’t have an Amazon whoosh on the side! I looked around, and saw that it had already been opened by my overeager daughter and patient husband, and that they’d hidden the inside in a lower kitchen drawer. I rushed to the drawer, pulled it open, and found a carved wooden box the size of a loaf of banana bread. I opened it, and the scent of India overwhelmed me. Three glass bottles in a row greeted me, each with a different strain of saffron. The gift was from our dear friends, who live in Colombo and who hosted us for a week of life-changing travels through the island. The wife and I were close until they moved abroad to work with the Foreign Service, and our daughters were best friends. We used to see each other once a week and cook and talk about recipes while our girls played or drew at our feet. I am now happily planning South Asian meals and hoping to make these fragrant threads last, just like our friendship has across continents.

  35. Tatiana Granoff says:

    The best package I ever received was from a dear friend and former co-worker in honor of my 50th birthday. I didn’t know I needed cheering up until I opened the box and found 6 pairs of sassy reading glasses called Peepers, each one labelled for a different spot in the house: the kitchen, the sewing table, my nightstand, the bathroom, etc. One of those pairs lives in my school library desk and has been featured in several first grade portraits of me reading stories to students.
    I consider this a brilliant gift!

  36. Pies and an Alligator:
    My grandmother sent homemade pies to me through the mail when I was in college. They always made it intact. No bubble wrap or “peanuts” — just lots of paper and string and “This Side Up” written on top. It was mail magic … no … more like grandmother magic 😉
    I also have to mention the alligator. He was sent up north to us from Florida as a gift when I was quite small. He came in a crate, bound with wire, with lots of holes in it. HANDLE WITH CARE was stenciled boldly and repeatedly in red letters on all sides. We carefully unpacked him, named him Arthur–and continued to heed the crate warning for the rest of his short life.

  37. Stephen Page says:

    It would have to be a smoked rainbow trout. That’s right, a fish. It was in an XpressPost envelope, shipped overnight. The fish was sealed in a plastic bag inside the envelope. I sure was glad it was not the middle of summer, festering awaiting me to come home from work, but rather the cool fall, so the mailbox was just like a small refrigerator. My wife and I ate the delicious fish with cheese and crackers.

  38. It gets harder every year to keep up with all the memories but this one really stands out. And it’s kidlit related. Way back in 2007, right after Christmas, I was feeling rather low. My ailing mom had come to live with us, which was good but very stressful. Our blog had been going for six months without much response and I felt, as another boy book blogger said at the time, like one of those large radio telescopes, sending messages into space and wondering if anyone was listening. Then, two days after Christmas, I received a package from Rick Riordan! It contained two Camp Half-Blood t-shirts and a note thanking me for all the enthusiastic reviews. I was blown away and considerably cheered up. Mom has gone to better things and my co-blogger was laid off and moved to another state but I still have the t-shirt and the happy memory.

  39. This is so freaking amazing. Sophie Blackall just blows my mind. Hm… I think my best package was several years ago in college when I received a box of 5 oranges. The top four were completely normal and I was baffled as I pulled them out. The fifth however had been written on with a Sharpie starting at one end and wrapping all the way around, covering every inch, and ending on the other end. It was a birthday wish from a very good friend. It was an odd, but lovely birthday gift. As a side note, I married him 3 years later and we just celebrated 5 years of marriage in November. 🙂

  40. I don’t have much for the best package ever received (every time an amazon package shows up on my doorstep, I’m giddy). The best package I ever sent was to my baby cousin (who is like my sister) when she was in her first year of college. I bought bunches of lollipops and other candies..filled a medium sized box with them; added some tissue paper and topped it with all kinds of glitter and confetti. It was a fun care package to brighten her day and let her know how much she is loved.

  41. These stories are amazing! I wrote about the best present I ever received for today’s Slice of Life on my blog, Surprise, it was a book!

  42. Mr Trebour Napepleaser says:

    I walk into the next village once a week to pick up my mail as we don’t have a post office in Critchley Ploughings. A few years ago I took Peter the dog (what lives in the front part of my house, including the Good Room). Just as well as there were two packages waiting both the sizes of birds and so too large to carry so I taped one to the back of Peter and I kicked the other one ahead of me on the walk home. I opened both and they were two identical bar fridges although one was older than the other one. There was clearly a misunderstanding so I buried them that night in the far corner of my neighbour’s field.

  43. I love everything Sophie Blackall does and I’m hoping to catch her presentation in DC next week!
    My favorite surprise in the mail came the winter I was in second grade. I came home from school to find an envelope from the White House, containing a signed photo of then-President Bill Clinton and a printed thank you card. My parents were rather puzzled, so I had to explain that I had sent President Clinton the valentine I had made in art class a few weeks earlier.

  44. Now that I’ve got The Sound of Music song stuck in my head, my favorite brown paper package tied up with string is a parcel I received at age ten from my grandma half way around the world. It contained a stamp album and lots of postage stamps she had been saving up for me. When my mom was my age, she loved to collect stamps, so my grandma thought it would be something I’d enjoy, too. She was right! I still pore over the mail for new stamps.

  45. Hard to pick just one, but I guess I’ll go with a sketch of a baby Boston Terrier from Aaron Zenz. He even illustrated the envelope!

  46. I was out drinking with friends talking to a guy, a friend of a friend, who I secretly hoped could be more, and we were talking about books. He mentioned Alex Garland’s The Beach. I said I hadn’t read it but I’d like to. We had a great night, but I lived in another town and I returned home without much hope of things going any further. A few days later I got a parcel. Inside was a dog-eared copy of ‘The Beach’ and a wonderful letter from the guy. It was the starting point for our relationship and many months of letters, and 10 years later we are still in love. It was the most surprising parcel. He’d taken my drivers licence from my purse the night we’d been out and memorised my address so he could write to me.

  47. once, way back in high school, i came home to find a parcel on my porch. it was lumpy and poorly wrapped in a brown paper shopping bag. inside was a stuffed iguana, a decent taxidermy job except for the mouth which was open and painted a bright red inside. light he was having a mighty laugh at my expense. it wasn’t anywhere near my birthday and it was sent anonymously. i named him tony the magic iguana and brought him to school to hang out on my desk in the journalism room.

    to this day i don’t know who gave him to me or why.

  48. Heather says:

    The best package I ever received was from my good friend who lives in Moscow, Russia. It was full of hand-knits for my new baby, picture books and novels in Russian, the latest Russian music on cd, and a letter full of kind thoughts and stories from a friend so far away.

  49. I had moved from NYC to San Diego and happened to cry out of nowhere to my friend that I could not find Stella D’Oro cookies at the store. My mom would have them lying around the kitchen from time to time when I was a child. I had a severe craving for these goodies. A few days later a package arrived at my door from my friend containing two packages of those Stella D’Oro “S”es. A little taste of NY that I never thought I would have missed. Years later, I couldn’t take all the yearnings for NY and moved back 😀 (Now, of course, I miss the breakfast burritos, San Diego style, but I’m not quite sure I want someone to mail one to me in NY.)

  50. The possibility of a hand-wrapped parcel from Sophie Blackall??? The notion makes me swoon.
    I’m an ever-fan of the fan-letter; as a child I wrote to my favorite illustrator… then waited. And, when the postman delivered the first of what became a whole year’s sequence of letters — in her beautiful scrawl and on her illustrated cards — my faith in “sending it out,” whatever it is, was solidified. She truly shaped my life, gave me the encouragement I needed to become the artist I am. The best package we’ve received in the last few years arrived here about a month after my children wrote their own illustrated fan-letter to a toy designer whose little creatures inspire them. The package was unexpected, reaffirmed my faith in humanity, and when opened, revealed over a dozen magical little creations. They wrote a thank-you note back, and a second parcel of personalized creatures arrived about a month later. I love that they too have experienced the unexpected pleasure of sending praise simply out of love, expecting nothing, and then finding that sometimes a world that owes us nothing (!) responds in kind, and writes back. Thanks Sophie; you rock!

  51. Interestingly enough, I have recently abandoned facebook, to engage in snail mail with my friends. I love sending and receiving packages and letters of all sorts. My favorite package, however, was from my teen years (pre cell phones and internet – gasp!). I had friends a town away from me and we would write back and forth. The best came from my friend Matthew, and the contents were made up simply of a letter and a mixed tape. But he illustrated the envelope in the most artistic way. Black pen, with my name in the center surrounded by a landscape of faces and music, eyes and suns. Even with a letter, the envelope would always be illustrated. Love.

  52. Brian Floca says:

    Secondhand, but here goes: Freshman year of college I was sitting in section for a history class. We’d already gotten started when in walks another student, fresh from the P.O., carrying a pumpkin. A friend had mailed it to him simply by affixing the proper postage and addressing it with a Sharpie. This done in days before anyone thought to ask about liquid, perishable, or hazardous, and I don’t imagine one could mail a gourd today with the same sort of youthful insouciance.

  53. This is the greatest. I think the oddest package I ever got was a beach ball. Just written on, stamped, and mailed. But now that I’ve read about Brian’s gourd, I feel like a beach ball isn’t that spectacular.

  54. I have been thinking and while I have received quite a few packages through the years,
    I cannot think of one that was the best. Sure I pretty much flipped out every time my new Harry Potter book came and dove in right away, and getting wedding presents showing up was pretty cool (especially the mixing bowls with the rubber on the bottom, genius, can’t live without them) but I really think back to a package that I sent to me sister that I think was the most awesome thing. It was back close to 10 years ago now, and the package was to honor her first wedding anniversary. Well, being the good sister that I am, I read up on what the appropriate gift for this event might be, and found it was paper. Well, I knew that it probably meant stationary, but were is the fun in that. No I decided that they needed paper that they could use…
    So I bought them: paper plates (the cool ones that are shaped like animals), paper cups, paper towel, toliet paper and I believe there were a few notebooks in there as well. I remember getting the call from her when she got it and she said it made her day.
    Can you guess what I did for the “cotton” anniversary?

  55. Melanie Hays says:

    I live in the US an once received a cd from a friend in London that didn’t release here for another several months. She also includes a cool London journal and a postcard. I loved that package!

  56. cathy o says:

    Best package I ever received in the mail was the one the stork left. The cutest baby in the world that someone was unable to care fore but thought I might be able to!

  57. I once received an entire set of pots and pans from my grandmother, completely unannounced. She said that she just happened upon them and it was such a good deal, she couldn’t pass them up. I still use them (but luckily, still have my grandmother around, too). 🙂

  58. Best package EVER came when I was 8 years old and my uncle was stationed in Korea. Being a kid of the 80’s imagine my sister and I utter awe of unwrapping not only dolls from every country in the world in a mini collection, BUT CHARM necklaces with about 500 charms for us to split. OMG they were those plastic charm necklaces and you’d trade your hair dryer charm for a turtle. I have no idea why those were so popular, but I went to school on Monday like I was a rapper wearing my BLING. FACT

  59. Diane baum says:

    packages are always wonderful, the unexpected ones make me jump for joy!

  60. Kathryn says:

    My best package ever was a mystery. Several years ago near Valentine’s Day my husband and I received a red and white wrapped box accompanied by a card from “A Friend.” Inside were two plaster casts of faces, and, after inspection, we were shocked to realize they were the faces of our children, aged 10 and 13. What a strange, magical experience!
    Eventually, we pried from the kids the story that six months earlier at an international magic convention in Dresden, Germany (My husband is a magician), a friend had secretly spirited off the kids and made the casts to surprise us with. They kept the secret all that time, just waiting for the package to arrive to surprise and delight us, which it certainly did.

  61. It was winter. I was unemployed. I couldn’t afford to attend the ALA Midwinter Meeting as I had planned. I was missing my friends, anxious about my job hunt, and broke. Then, one day, about a week after Midwinter was over and done, a lovely package arrived, crammed with galleys and bookmarks and buttons and pens and a little stuffed Splat the Cat that my friends had chosen for me and mailed from the exhibits floor. It was heartwarming, not just to get the package, but to be remembered in that way.

  62. Sylvia Liu says:

    I love Sophie Blackall. My favorite packages have all been books. One of my college roommates sends the best books…the last one I got from her was a special edition of Shaun Tan’s The Arrival.

  63. Best mail I’ve gotten in recent memory was from the Office of Vital Statistics: my son’s amended birth certificate after a long and challenging adoption process, my attorney grappling with their office over minutia, and a blip where they misspelled my name. Totally worth it.

  64. The best package I ever received was during college when I was away at a field camp for six weeks. My hiking boots had fallen apart, but the local shoe store did not carry my size (5-1/2) so I asked my mother to send me a pair of her hiking boots (we wear the same size shoe). My mother got confused somehow and instead of sending me a pair of HIKING boots she sent me a pair of FASHION boots (which were gorgeous but useless). She even included a pair of ruffle socks. I laughed and scratched my head several times. When I spoke with her on the phone I asked her why she sent those boots and she said she thought those were the ones I meant. I told her I wanted to wear the ones she wore when she went hiking in Peru and she said, “Oh, those? Those are my PERU boots!” At this point I think I fell down laughing. Luckily, I was able to find a pair of durable shoes to use as a replacement, but I will never forget getting a frilly pair of leather boots from my mother while I was out hiking in the wilderness of Wyoming!

  65. When my grandma downsized after living in a large home for about 40 years, I was 8 years old. I still remember sitting with my sister on the edge of our deck in Oregon, and diving into this big card board box she’d shipped from Iowa. Inside we found a small museum’s worth of tissue-wrapped knickknacks: teacups, silver spoons, costume jewels, souvenir figurines, and other treasures from her long life and many travels. An 8 year old girl’s dream come true.

  66. The best package I ever got was homemade chocolate chip cookies for my grandmother, Nan, at comp. I didn’t like camp very much and these made it a lot better!

  67. Best package ever? That’s hard, because I get such a thrill from any package of books. For 8 years I worked at Sembach Base Library in Germany, and I was in charge of the books we rented from McNaughton. I never ceased to get a thrill when a McNaughton box came in for me to open! I swear that I’d get the shakes if two weeks went by without a McNaughton box full of new books!

    Personally, it’s mostly been book boxes, too. But I have to mention one other package. It was Valentine’s Day, 2006. My husband had announced he was divorcing me and had moved out. I was still living in Germany with our two sons. And I was scheduled for surgery in a German hospital on Valentine’s Day. I broke down and asked my friends to send me Valentine cards. Well, one friend went one better and sent me an adorable quilted bag. It’s got lovely bright flowers. It’s small, but I still use it every Sunday to bring my Bible and any other little thing I have with me to church on Sunday. Oh, and my other friends really came through for me, too, and I felt sustained by all the love and kindness.

  68. Years ago after my husband and I got married, we moved to Reno, darn near a whole continent away from my home and family in MA. Later when I was about to have our first baby, I was scared and homesick. Being still pretty new in town, there was no one to give me a baby shower etc. Then a HUGE package came to the door for me. Before I had a chance to open it the phone rang. It was my mom and all my relatives were with her hollering, “Did it come? Open it!” That box was full of so many lovely gifts. Best package ever!

  69. My husband is in the Navy and is one of the few people I know who loves anything post-WWII (jazz, sweater vests, bow ties, etc.). Considering we’re both in our 20s and in Los Angeles, this is a rare find. So when we first started dating, my cat accidentally tipped over a clock Betsy gave me for my birthday. He said he’d take the clock home to fix, since it was in pieces.

    A few days later, I receive an actual telegram in the mail (yes, they still exist!). It said:


    After reading the telegram, I immediately framed it and have had it all the years since. There are just some things in the mail you don’t throw away.

  70. I only have a best gift sent story. Once I wanted to send my nephew,who lived in Athens Greece, a piñata for his 4th birthday. I picked out the biggest most beautiful traditional donkey piñata , boxed it up, wrote out the customs declaration and went to mail it at the satellite post office inside Fast Freddie’s car wash in Las Vegas (mail packages, get your car washed, and play slots – all at the same time). After consulting her customs book, the cashier/postal worker took out the measuring tape and declared that the package was too big to ship to Greece. Now decorated in deep deep sadness for my nephew and the jumbo donkey who would never see Greece, I went home to figure this out. And figure it out I did. I took out my biggest sharpest knife and cut off the donkeys head – slit, slat, done. Decapitated and repackaged, I motored him back to Fast Freddie’s and off he flew – to Athens – land of milk and honey. I do have a photo of him with his head back on. And according to my sister, it was the best gift sent.

  71. Back in the 70’s when my boyfriend (now husband) and I were both in college and dating long distance, he wrote me a letter, folded it and popped it inside a silver Leggs pantyhose egg, wrapped the egg with white athletic tape, addressed it with a sharpie, applied appropriate postage and sent it off. My whole dorm was talking about the mail slot that laid an egg!

  72. 20 years ago, a cross-country suitor sent me a homemade chocolate milkshake. It arrived in a shoebox, surrounded by freezer packs, and it was absolutely delicious.

  73. When I was a freshman in college, I decided to study abroad for a semester. I left my dorm mates behind for three months in Tubingen, Germany. Of course, I was terribly lonely and felt like I was missing out on my friends’ doings and on all the pop-culture things I loved back home. So…my friends wrapped up, and shipped–yes, shipped, not air-mailed–a small box of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pies. They were like the Hostess fruit pies, only the flaky, folded pie crust was filled with vanilla cream and iced with green “ooze” icing. Even though the pies where smashed nearly beyond recognition from their trans-Atlantic journey, I had never felt so happy nor so loved. (And yes, I ate all four of the pies. Just not in one sitting.)


  1. […] morning on her blog extraordinaire, A Fuse 8 Production, Betsy Bird announced a contest. The prize? “A hand-wrapped parcel from Sophie Blackall,” […]

  2. […] Bird has a charming contest underway inspired by Sophie Blackall and Matthew Olshan’s The Mighty Lalouche, inspired by […]

  3. […] librarian at the New York Public Library, wrote on her influential kids’ book blog Fuse 8, “Share in the comments of this post the BEST package you have ever received in the mail. […]