That Crazy PenPal Sticker Club Lady

[This post is part of a series in which I focus on read-aloud. To see the list of 31 posts, go here.]

When I was a tween, I was way into stickers. (What can I say, I’m a Gen X kid.) Sticker books, trips to the Lisa Frank store in the mall, trading stickers, scratch ‘n sniff, and of course joining sticker clubs were all part of it.

Around this time I had a pen-pal in Chicago. She was one of a kind, for sure.  Older than me, already a teen, she had the craziest hair, the most beautiful handwriting, and so much personality. Her name was Esmé (complete with an accent mark over the e, which made her even cooler and French-like).

She was also the president of her very own sticker club, which made her uber cool in my mind. Every month I would get her newsletter, beautifully crafted and printed, and a selection of stickers. It was awesome.

Esmé closed down the sticker club when she started college, and I grieved a little. I thought about her from time to time and wondered what she was up to. Something amazing, no doubt.

Fast forward at least 20 years.

One day I’m in Barnes and Noble with my kids, browsing the homeschooling and education section. As I scan the spines of books, a name pops out at me:

Esmé Raji Codell.

I had to blink a couple of times.


There she was, my long-lost pen-pal, writing mentor, and friend. Her hair was even still crazy.

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Once I got home I Googled her and found that she had written several books (I’m not surprised, as she was an amazing writer).

Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher’s First Year, was about her first year as a new teacher, the new teacher that any kid would HAVE DIED TO HAVE, in an inner city Chicago school.

As a self-proclaimed Readiologist, she also wrote How to Get Your Child to Love Reading, a humongous book inspired by none other than the great Jim Trelease of The Read-Aloud Handbook.

She also wrote several works of fiction.

Her website, Planet Esme, is a ton of fun to peruse. The Bookroom section is filled with hundreds of book reviews and lists for read-aloud guidance. For a few years, Esme even had her very own real live Bookroom in Chicago where parents and kids could come to peruse her personal collection of thousands of children’s books.

From her bio:

She “thinks children’s trade literature and read-aloud is our best hope for equalizing education in America.” (emphasis mine)

Which is why I’m now introducing you to her and her books! Have you ever heard of Esme or read any of her books?

(You might enjoy reading this essay of hers about how teachers give hope.)

More on how to get your kids to love reading.


About Carrie

Happy wife, homeschooling mom of many, autodidact, best-selling Amazon author, blogger, head chef and barefoot walker. Residing just outside Atlanta, usually found reading a book while sipping a hot beverage.

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