As a kid, I was always writing notes to my friends and seeking out pen pals. To this day, I still love to send (and get!) letters in the mail. Much like letters in real life, epistolary novels (or stories told through letters, journal entries, and other documents) give readers the chance to hear someone else's thoughts and feelings in a format that feels both personal and familiar. If you're a child, parent, or kid-at-heart who's looking for a chapter book with an interesting structure and relatable characters, then try one of these novels told through letters:
Dying to Meet You by Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise
In this light-hearted and spooky book, fictional children's author I. B. Grumply rents a large, secluded Victorian mansion for the summer in order to work on his next big novel. Little does he know, however, that the house is already occupied by a young boy, a cat, and... a GHOST! Newspaper entries, drawings, and letters from various characters' perspectives collectively form a picture of a summer full of all kinds of antics. Dying to Meet You is the first book in the 43 Cemetery Road series.
Clueless McGee by Jeff Mack
Fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid will love this funny, comic-style read-alike. 5th grader PJ McGee dreams of being a private eye, just like his dad. When someone steals his school's beloved macaroni and cheese from the cafeteria, he seizes the opportunity to solve his very first mystery. In a series of letters to his father, PJ writes about clues, possible suspects, and the many obstacles he encounters while working to uncover the mac and cheese bandit. Continue to follow PJ's story in Clueless McGee Gets Famous! and Clueless McGee and the Inflatable Pants.
P.S. Longer Letter Later by Paula Danziger and Ann M. Martin
This book was one of my favorites growing up! Best friends Elizabeth and Tara*Starr decide to become pen pals in an effort to continue their friendship when Tara moves away. As Tara begins to meet friends and explore opportunities at her new school, Elizabeth experiences trouble at home. The touching exchange between the two girls explores real world issues related to family and friendship. Snail Mail No More is the sequel to this book.
Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
Ten-year-old Leigh Botts initially writes to his favorite author, Boyd Henshaw, as part of a school project. Over time, however, the two develop a meaningful correspondence. Through Leigh's letters and eventual journal entries, we learn of his parents' separation and the challenges he faces to fit in at a new school.
Kizzy Ann Stamps by Jeri Watts
It's 1963 in Virginia, and Kizzy Ann is attending an integrated school for the first time. In the letters and journal entries she writes to her new teacher, she describes her emotions, interactions with classmates, and the strong relationship she has with her Border Collie, Shag. When Kizzy Ann has the opportunity to enter Shag in a dog show, she winds up learning a lot about herself and making some unexpected friends in the process.