Remember when people used to write actual letters to each other? Even if these aren't used as mentor texts for letter writing, these books are great examples demonstrating different perspectives and viewpoints. All of these stories are crafted with letter-writing as a predominant feature.
1) Can I Be Your Dog? by Troy Cummings
See also: I Found a Kitty by Troy Cummings
This is an adorable story about a dog roaming the city, looking to find a home. Each letter from different potential companions is written on the stationery equivalent of the house decor, whether it's fluffy and pink, or plain and severe. This book also introduces the concept of supporting arguments in an accessible way to younger audiences.
2) The Quiet Place by Sarah Stewart
See also: The Gardener by Sarah Stewart
Isabel moves to the U.S. from Mexico, and misses her home, Letters to her aunt show Isabel's gradually increasing comfort and appreciation for new routines and experiences. This would be an excellent read-aloud to help new students feel seen and validated, or to introduce a pen pal program with other students in a contrasting region.
3) Dear Dragon by Josh Funk
I'm a fan of this author's work, and particularly this funny rhyming exchange of letters between a dragon and boy who are each shocked to discover that their pen pal is not what they expected. It's amazing how an open mind can allow a boy to connect to a dragon, and vice versa. This would be an excellent resource prior to class discussions about trying to see different perspectives, even when people disagree.
4) Postcards from Camp by Simms Taback
I adore this book for two different reasons. First, the writing is very funny, and relatable to any kid who isn't sure the overnight camp experience is going to work out. The son's sense of dramatic urgency and the dad's sense of calm encouragement represent strikingly different viewpoints and writing styles that make a great model for middle grade writers. Second, the format of this book has a delightful surprise - there are actual pull-out letters readers can extract from envelopes built in to the book pages. A librarian nightmare for its destructive potential, sure, but super charming to readers clever enough to check it out.
5) With Love, Little Red Hen by Alma Flor Ada
This author also wrote Dear Peter Rabbit, and Yours Truly, Goldilocks, and many well-known fairy tale characters are included in this story. Red Hen and her chicks are new to the area, and can't convince neighbors to help with their corn project, The illustrations are key to some of the plot points, so young readers can use inferencing skills to discuss the conclusion. This book would fit in well with a fairy tale unit or a chance to model stories that mix well-known characters in the same story setting for student writing projects.
6) Ice Cream Summer by Peter Sis
A celebration of ice cream from the text to the clever illustrations, this story could be an excellent model for food, location, or seasonally-inspired research projects culminating in original picture books.
7) Plantzilla by Jerdine Nolen
Detailed illustrations by David Catrow are definitely part of the fun of this book, with a third grader who takes the class plant home to care for it over the summer. Soon the family is dealing with strange disappearances, with the story told in letters to the classroom teacher. A funny introduction to a plant unit, or a book that invites readers to pay attention to details and observation.
8) Dear Yeti by James Kwan
An adorable story inviting readers to delight in detecting more than the unsuspecting characters, who write letters pleading with the Yeti to show himself. Yeti employs some stealthy help to the hikers, who find themselves cold and hungry during their quest to find him. This book is fun on its own, but it could connect to research about cryptids, or introduce some outdoor activity preparation or survival skills, or invite young writers to write from Yeti's perspective.
9) The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt
This book features a series of postcards from various crayons located in assorted places - a great exercise in writing from the point of view of a familiar object, or for older students crafting writing voices to develop effective characterization.
10) I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff
A classic persuasive writing mentor text, this book has several companions as Alex argues in favor of a pet iguana, a new room, or to not have to stay at his grandparents' retirement community for a week. Mom's counter-arguments are also presented in letters, offering readers a good model of arguments with supporting examples.
11) Click, Clack, Moo - Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
First published in 1964, this classic has spurred many sequels and spin-offs. The farmer is incensed to receive complaints (in the form of typewritten letters) about working conditions from the cows, and the back-and-forth disagreement is simple, yet compelling. This story continues to be an entertaining and useful model for students who are beginning to write using different character viewpoints and voices.
I've had the privilege of working with hundreds of students and families in IA, CT, NC, MO, TX, and Canada. I love being a teacher-librarian!