Special Delivery

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
Special Delivery Book Poster Image
Determined girl sends great-aunt an elephant in quirky tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Teaches kids about stamps and stamp collecting, different designs and what makes misprints valuable, especially the Inverted Jenny stamp. Also provides information about how to write letters and mail packages and how to problem-solve in the face of obstacles, and shows different means of transportation.

Positive Messages

Don't give up on a plan when you meet an obstacle; adapt and find a way around it. Thinking of others makes life exciting. Being kind and grateful encourages people to help you. Remember to thank people who help you out. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sadie is brave, thinks of others, and is a kind, resourceful problem-solver. She goes to great lengths to do nice things for people, and when something gets in her way, she finds another way. Everyone she meets during her adventure is willing to help her, and she's sure to thank those who help out. She even insists on sending off a thank-you note to the alligator before she has her hot chocolate. 

Violence & Scariness

A plane crash, bandit monkeys, but nobody gets hurt.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Special Delivery is an offbeat picture book by Caldecott-winning author Philip C. Stead that follows the adventures of a plucky young girl who wants to deliver an elephant to her great-aunt, "who could really use the company." The silly story is unconventional, the language is funny, and Matthew Cordell's detailed, expressive artwork is phenomenal. The fun begins on the cover with a nod to the most famous misprinted stamp, the Inverted Jenny (1918), and grows from there to Great Aunt J.'s expanding menagerie. This would be a great book to inspire kids to talk about stamp collecting, letter writing, and adventurous girls. 

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What's the story?

Little red-haired Sadie is concerned that her Great Aunt J. might be lonely, so she decides to send her an elephant to keep her company. When she realizes mailing the pachyderm will take more than a wheelbarrow of stamps, she looks for other delivery options: a plane, an alligator, a train, and even an ice cream truck. This girl is determined! And, she has quite an adventure. 

Is it any good?

Sadie's story is an offbeat adventure, the kind kids tend to love. The characters in SPECIAL DELIVERY are offbeat too, from the eccentric postman to the helpful alligator and the band of bandit monkeys to Great Aunt Josephine. The language is playful, and the ink-and-watercolor illustrations are comically fantastic, full of detail and expression. Readers with a sense of humor, a love of adventure, and an appreciation of quirky artwork and spunky little heroines will love this book.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about postage stamps. How many different stamps have you ever seen? Does anyone you know have a stamp collection? What did you think of the postage stamp on the cover before you read the story? Why do you think the author used an idea similar to the Inverted Jenny stamp on his cover? 

  • What did you think when Sadie chose to send her letter in the end before she had her hot chocolate? What did that show you about the kind of person she is? Did you guess who she was writing to? How did the illustrator show you who received her letter?

  • What do you think about Sadie's idea of sending the elephant to keep her aunt company? What would you send if you wanted to cheer someone up? Who would you send it to? How would you get it there?

Book details

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