You are the perfect place to picnic,
especially in the summer. I love your
twirly slide and your wading pool
and your monkey bars
Partly based on the author’s own experiences, Dear Street is a charming and pleasant story of a young girl who writes letters to her street and the people who live on it. Cheerful illustrations round out this story of community and spreading positivity.
This picture book tells the story of a young girl named Alice who loves her street, even though not everyone feels the same. One day she decides to write a love letter of sorts to her street, and she leaves it outside where someone might find it. This small act of kindness cheers up a grumbling neighbour, and Alice continues to write her letters. When Alice, herself, becomes the one who’s grumbling, she finds a letter someone else has written which brightens her day, and the cycle continues.
Dear Street is well-written and has a good balance between longer passages, shorter ones, and wordless pages that help make this story a good candidate for being read aloud. There is a recurring motif of neighbours who “grumble grumble” which brings a bit of humour to the pages. Alice’s love letters are offset and in a different font which looks closer to handwriting which may help young readers distinguish them. They also happen to be very sweet.
This story is partly inspired by the work of the author, Lindsay Zier-Vogel, who created the Love Lettering Project and who has been hiding love letters for decades. The back matter of the book explains this in some detail in an author’s note. Knowing this information in advance might have lent some more sincerity to the first reading; however, it is difficult to do this without making the book seem like promotion for the Love Lettering Project.
The illustrations in Dear Street are done in acrylics, pencils, and crayons. They have a modern sensibility and are bright and colourful. Characters are expressive, and the illustrations add to the charm and humour of the neighbours on Alice’s street. Full-page spreads of the park bustle with activity. Characters go about their lives, flowers bloom, and children play. These pages are intermixed with pages with lots of white space, highlighting Alice’s neighbours as they grumble or read one of Alice’s letters. There is a fun sense of perspective and plenty of movement which make the illustrations feel fun and dynamic.
Dear Street is a lovely story that would lend itself well to read-alouds. It will likely appeal more to children in the middle elementary grades and would work well for preparing children for writing activities in classrooms, library programs, and the like. It might also inspire children to write letters of their own to their own neighbourhoods and would make a good purchase for most libraries.
Alex Matheson is a children’s librarian in Vancouver, British Columbia.