“She keeps them stacked in a special box so …’I can read them for the rest of my life.'”
(about Laurel, 9 years old)
“Gramma said when you come on something good, first thing to do is share it with whoever you can find; that way, the good spreads out where no telling it will go. Which is right.” – Little Tree, in The Education of Little Tree
Once in a while you come across something extra-special, so worth sharing that you want to tell everyone. And sometimes, that something extra-special is also a wonderful secret. So it is with the Appletta Letters, named after the playful tooth fairy who writes them.
Appletta uses fanciful writing, magical-looking paper, and delightful illustrations that are colorful, imaginative and interesting. Each letter reveals a sweet and whimsical story bearing a gentle message. The themes interlace with the lives of young children, dealing with feelings, relationships and imagination. Every letter addresses the child by name, in Appletta’s jazzy handwriting, which is punctuated and accentuated by swirls, stars, wiggly lines, and spirals. The Appletta letters are sent to the adult who ordered them, so they can be given or tucked away for discovery at an appropriate time.
Even before I could hide out and take a careful look at the Blue Set, which includes 20 multiple-paged Appletta Letters, what I saw made me smile again and again. Immediately I began to imagine how much my younger daughter would enjoy these letters. Laurel has always had a vivid imagination and considered fairies to be real, but seemed to be outgrowing the idea as she approached her 9th birthday. Amazingly, Appletta rekindled my daughter’s belief.
Laurel found the 4-page “One Nice Long Letter” outside where I had placed it, and rushed in to tell us. She noticed the fancy envelope — handmade paper sprinkled with wisps of greenery and flower petals, including marigold and rose — and opened it with anticipation. The curly lettering was unfamiliar at first, but soon Laurel was reading at her usual speed, interspersed with pauses as she repeatedly looked up at me, grinning. She seemed to suspect some connection between the letters and me, but she didn’t want to let on. Laurel relished the story, and we all marveled at the playful illustrations and fancy paper embedded with indescribable glimmery designs and flecks of silver and gold, which make the Appletta letters look truly magical.
I continued to “hide” each of the 20 letters from the set, choosing times based on Laurel’s mood, and sometimes, when a particular story related to events in her life. When Laurel found a letter explaining the trick Appletta learned from a dream: how to use an imaginary white sheet to make anger and sadness disappear. That idea stuck with Laurel, who has used the trick several times since she read the letter. It has been gratifying to see my daughter’s imagination continue to bloom with Appletta’s help.
Laurel found Appletta’s pinwheel/tooth-pouches on a day when she needed a perk-me-up, and was delighted to engage in a pleasing activity on an otherwise “yucky” day. These clever little handmade-paper gems look like flowers, and can be used as pouches for keeping fallen teeth, or may be pinned to a stick to make pinwheels.
Laurel’s 12-year-old sister, Caitlín, enjoyed helping to hide the letters, or distracting her younger sister while I hid them. It made her feel mature to be in on the secret and to see Laurel’s expressions of delight and wonder.
Although Appletta is a tooth fairy, her wisdom, whimsy and fun would appeal to almost any young child, girl or boy. Most of today’s children are bombarded with material goods and cross advertising intended to feed the desire for more, but you won’t find any of that in the Appletta letters. Each stands on its own and is designed to inspire imagination. Children are introduced to intriguing characters like the mischievous Wag-at-the-Wa, the Pillywiggins, “fratched” Tattered Tommy, the Bitties, and the Whirling Clampernappers. Appletta’s letters encourage children to believe in fairies: where to find them, how to see — or even smell them and how to notice what fairy mischief has been done.
My daughter revels in the pastel envelopes strewn with petals and leaves, and spotted a marigold seed in one, which she plans to put in a pot, to see if it will grow. The envelopes also sparked Laurel’s interest in papermaking, which she wants to try.
She treasures the writing, illustrations, stories, and stories-within-stories so much that she keeps them stacked in the order she received them, stored in a special box so, in her words, “I can read them for the rest of my life.”
The curly writing in Appletta’s letters also influenced Laurel’s artwork; she has created new pieces that include swirls and curls, but remain her own style. Much to Laurel’s pleasure, one of her Appletta-inspired designs ended up as the logo for the 2002 Virginia Home Education Association Conference & Curriculum Fair, and was even printed on the back of the organization’s t-shirts.
Angela Elmore’s Appletta Tooth Fairy and the Whirligigs, created with still more magical paper, is hand bound with flax cording. Another story within a story, this is about the two kinds of brownies (the chocolate type and the fairy kind), and how they are related. I decided to save the book for last, as a grand finale after Laurel found all the letters in the Blue Set. She was thrilled with the book.
Laurel seems to have come to fully believe in Appletta, and is delighted to have her as her tooth fairy, even when she didn’t have the prospect of losing any teeth in the near future. A loose tooth used to bring Laurel anxiety and tears, but not now. Since Appletta made herself known, one of Laurel’s cuspids has become loose, and she is actually looking forward to the day the tooth comes out. “Now that I know Appletta is my tooth fairy, I’m excited about losing another tooth,” she enthused.
In one of her letters, Appletta says, “believing is important,” and it is! (So please don’t mention this article to Laurel. Shhhh!)
© 2004 Shay Seaborne- All rights reserved.
Shay Seaborne and her husband Scott homeschool their two daughters in Woodbridge, VA. Shay is a Writer & Speaker, Community Organizer, Event Coordinator & Publicist, Homeschooling Parent, Survivor & Thriver: her website is synergyfield.com.
Shay facilitates the FOLC eclectic homeschool network, and moderated the VaEclecticHomeschool statewide E-mail discussion list until 2008. She firmly supports her fully inclusive, member-directed, all volunteer state homeschool organization, the Virginia Home Education Association.
She delights helping to make magic happen.