7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #754: Featuring Kazue Takahashi

h1 August 1st, 2021 by jules

“That evening Mayu went to the forest mailbox with her letter.
Her heart beat faster as she put her letter into the box. Then she ran home.”


Those of you who still correspond with friends and family via letter-writing know that to receive a letter from a friend, sitting there in your mailbox amongst all the credit card applications, is to receive a gift. In fact, I received one such gift this week, which brightened my day. Kyoko Hara’s newest illustrated chapter book for children, The Mailbox in the Forest, is a tribute to letter-writing. Originally published in Japan in 2007, it will be on U.S. shelves in September and was illustrated by Kazue Takahashi. (Fans of the fabulous Kuma-Kuma Chan books will recognize that name.)

First-grader Mayu is visiting her grandparents during the winter holidays. She lives with her parents in a tall apartment building in the big city, but her grandparents live near a grand forest. “She smiled every time she imagined the forest,” we read. But now that she’s spending time with her grandparents, she takes the opportunity to visit it.

Right after seeing the joy her grandfather experiences over receiving a letter from a friend — an experience Mayu hasn’t quite had yet in her life — she sees a mailbox in the forest: “Mailbocks,” it says on the side. “Please put letters in here Everyone is welcome From forest friend.” Mayu writes a letter on the back of a receipt and places it in the box. A correspondence is born. (Back at her grandparents’ place, Mayu eventually finds some stationery). Mayu is pleasantly surprised to discover the identity of her letter-writing friend, one she assumed was a boy. (Spoiler alert! This is pictured below.)

Was the whole thing real or imagined? The better question may be: Does it even matter if it was imagined? The experience for Mayu is as real as can be.

Each letter in this story appears on its own page, Mayu’s stationery always lined. The dustjacket is designed, front and back, such that it looks like an envelope. It even closes with an empty piece of stationery for children to cut (on the dotted line) and remove from the book. It’s a full-package tribute to the joys of letter-writing with a friend; the narrative itself captures the thrill of receiving, opening, and reading correspondence from a pen pal. Mayu’s is all the more mysterious and exciting, given her friend’s unknown identity.

Takahashi’s soft watercolors, appearing in both grayscale and color illustrations, are warm and inviting — and add a wondrous tone to the whole book. It’s full-on charming to enter the forest with Mayu and approach the mailbox.

Here are some of the illustrations. …


(Title page illustration)


“Grandpa opened the envelope and began to read the letter inside. He smiled.
‘Grandpa, does that letter make you happy?'”


“Mayu was so happy that she read the letter over and over.
She had never received a letter before. She hadn’t written one before either.”


“Mayu left the house and headed straight for the forest.”


“‘Yes, I’m Konta. Hello.’ A nervous face peeked out from behind the trees.
It was not a boy; it was a fox child!”



THE MAILBOX IN THE FOREST. Text copyright © 2019 by Kyoko Hara. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Kazue Takahashi. English translation copyright © 2021 by Museyon Inc. First published in Japan in 2007 by SOENSHA Publishing Co., Ltd. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Museyon, New York.

* * * Jules’s Kicks * * *

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

Happy August, dear Imps!

My apologies, but I’m once again (as I think I did two weeks ago) keeping it very short this week, as I am heading to East Tennessee to surprise a former sign language interpreting colleague at her retirement lunch. (By the time you read this, it will no longer be a surprise!)

I’ll be back on Sunday to read your kicks, so do tell me:

What are YOUR kicks this week?

8 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #754: Featuring Kazue Takahashi”

  1. Ooh, this book. I love sending mail.
    Jules, I get the short kicks. My kicks are the similar.

    Kicks 1-7 is a week with the two young grand girls with oldest joining at times. Since Friday, we’ve all been at the coast. Bowling, henna, walking, laughter, and fun,
    Have a good week.

  2. Love this story and illustrations so much – shared with larger interwebs for #penpalooza folks, who certainly share your view of unexpected letters in the mail as a gift. (As do I.)

    Jules – have fun at the retirement party! Those are always such joyous celebrations.

    Jone – what a wonderful week you’ve had! Enjoy the coast!

    My kicks this week:
    1) Today is the 10th day of the ten day vegan recipes – its been fun to try so many delicious new recipes, many of which are very easy to make. Definitely adding most of them into my recipe rotation.
    2) Outdoor dinner with a friend I hadn’t seen since pre-pandemic. Gosh, but its so good to see friends again.
    3) Helping care for a friend’s cat while they are away, its always fun to interact with her goofy and sweet personality. (The cat’s personality, not the friend’s!)
    4) Daisy having fun at underwater therapy yesterday.
    5) Giving Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s Green Sky trilogy a re-read for research on an idea I have for a book. Currently on book 1, Below the Root, and I had forgotten how complex the society was.
    6) Simone Biles taking good care of herself for all the world to see, and staying to cheer for her teammates. Love her so much.
    7) Work has been a bit hectic, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel approaching in a few weeks. Progress!
    7.5) Beautiful summer weather and the heatwave this past week was less intense than the one in June. Hoping for rain soon for the whole state to put out the forest fires.

    Have a great week Imps!

  3. Hi Imps! Hi Kazue! I hope you are all having a good start to the month. Here’s to lovely letters and correspondence.

    Jules: Safe travels! Have fun at the event.

    Jone: Yay! That sounds like a great time.

    Rachel: Hello to the cat! Thanks for looking after her. Hi Daisy! Hi Zilpha! Three cheers for Simone.

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) Performances
    2) Organization
    3) Visits
    4) Dependable
    5) Sturdy
    6) Sharing
    7) Food

  4. Jone, how lovely. So glad you had this time with them.

    Rachel: An idea for a book?! You mean one that you yourself want to write? Exciting. … I applaud kick #6 and would have listed the exact same thing, if I’d listed kicks. .. What was your very favorite vegan recipe?

    Little Willow: One day, I’d love to see you perform in person!

    Have a good week, you all.

  5. Little Willow – I echo Jules, would love to see you perform in person! Love all your other kicks too, especially sharing and food.

    Jules – yes to maybe, possibly, writing a book for young readers. Its still a kernel of an idea at the moment, we’ll see what happens. Also, favorite recipes – one would be the Green Party Salad – everything in the salad is green, chopped cucmbers, avocado, edamame, peas, hearts of palm, olives, and any other green veggies (i added romaine lettuce too); and an avocado/tomato bowl salad – simple and perfect, and grilled spaghetti squash topped with a mushroom ragu. (Having leftovers of the last one for dinner tonight.)

  6. Ooh, yum. Thanks, Rachel! My husband switched to a plant-based diet, so we always need new recipes. Also, did you just hear me SQUEAL that you said “a book for young readers”? !!!!!!

  7. Jules and Rachel: Thanks! Rachel, sending lots of good vibes and inspiration for your book idea! Those dishes sound delicious.

  8. Little Willow, sharing and food sound interesting.
    Rachel, ooh an inspiration for a new young reader’s book sounds exciting.

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