Introducing kids to the world's cultures through a series of adventurous letters airmailed from abroad. (plus a lot more...)
The new video below explains a bit of the pledging process, introduces new rewards, and describes the exciting new direction our project has taken. Skip to 1:51 if you only want to hear the new information.
The Adventurous Mailbox (trademark pending) intends to introduce 8-12-year-olds to the cultures of the world through a series of airmailed letters/adventures and an interactive online community. Our primary goal is to open up young eyes in a respectful and curious way to the world. We also hope to inspire kids to learn other languages, introduce them to different ways of thinking and being, and drive home the importance of respecting and preserving cultures, all while thoruoughly entertaining them.
We have a lot going on with this project, but the core of the project (and where we need your help) is the letters. Kids will receive personalized, 20-page adventures taking place in eight different countries that are full of rich characters, intricate plots and original illustration that will arrive in fat airmail envelopes covered in foreign stamps and postmarked from abroad. The letters are written directly to the kids from the main character in the stories, and they will be personally addressed to the kids and use their names throughout. Our Kickstarter campaign is being run to get these letters illustrated and designed.
Feel free to contact us for a sample, and scroll down for an introduction to the characters and synopses of the first eight adventure stories.
Why we need your help
The first series has been written, reviewed by an awesome team of parents, teachers, and children, and edited by our education consultant to make sure the content and language are age appropriate. Before we can call this stage of the project done, however, the stories need to be illustrated and professionally designed to truly bring them to life. Though letters, we want to produce treasured objects the kids will want to hang on to as keepsakes. We have assembled an incredible team of talent (introduced in video) to do this, and they are excited to get to work. All money donated will go directly to the artists and graphic designers on board.
Illustration cost for the eight stories: $8-9,000 (depending on time)
Design cost for the eight stories (each with an individual design) and special portfolio to hold them: $1-1,500.
Any additional funds raised will go toward the initial printing and marketing of the finished project.
The illustration and design of these letters are the key part of an evolving endeavor that will ultimately include many series of adventures, an interactive and dynamic website and online community for the kids (being built), gifts from artisans from around the world, and cooperation with schools and home schoolers. All that other stuff is falling into place, but to get the ball rolling, we need to have an amazing first series to base the whole endeavor on. This is why our Kickstarter campaign is so important to us.
Andrew Bliss (Writer/Researcher/Developer): Graduating from St. John's College in Santa Fe with an MA in Liberal Education, he is now living in Tainan, Taiwan where he has started an editing company, is a freelance writer, and is a university instructor. He has lived abroad for the past nine years and has traveled extensively around the world.
Karen Morgan (Academic Coordinator/Editor/Supermom): After receiving her MA in Education from O.U. in Athens (BA from Miami, OH), she has been active in the Cincinnati school system as a teacher and devoted parent. She has raised three incredible kids, one of which gave us the name for our project.
Douglas Stichbury (Art Director/Creative Catalyst): He is currently finishing up his Ph.D. in Fine Art, after which he thinks he'll be moving to Switzerland. He is actively involved in many creative projects at the moment, but is looking forward to devoting himself to our adventure series.
家欣 (Jia-xin) (Artist/Local liaison): She received her BA in Fine Art in Tainan, Taiwan, where she currently works as an art teacher and illustrator. She is currently working to publish her first graphic novel.
For helping us, you will get no reward whatsoever. Nothing! The children in your life, though, will be happy. (UPDATE! We just added some rewards that aren't necessarily just for kids!) Each reward is a gift sent from abroad to the child or children of your choice. These rewards include an email correspondence that includes pdf’s of the letters, personalized envelopes and stories arriving at their homes, their Chinese names written by a Taiwanese calligraphy master on either a plank of wood, scroll or fan with accompanying instructions on how to explain, pronounce and write a self introduction in Chinese, or even a character based on him or her in an upcoming international adventure.
Also, we promise that the pledges needed for certain rewards are less than the eventual price of the stories and gifts. So, if you like the idea, no need to wait!
Also again... although the Chinese language is featured here due to the author's location, many languages are introduced in the series. Chinese only features in the 1st story.
Here is how their Chinese names will look:
Take heart that in these letters, no political agenda or way of living is presented as the “right” way to be. Each letter just presents different ways of being as they are. That said, some parents might want to know that topics such as evolution and genetics are treated as actual fact, and that the idea of preserving all world cultures is a good thing. Also, in the second series, a new character is introduced who is the daughter of a gay couple. This is given no special treatment and presented as simply a normal thing.
Also, for supporters outside of the USA, don't worry! Though some characters are originally from the US, the letters aren't America-centric at all. If American culture is mentioned, it will only be something universally known (like the NBA).
We can’t thank you enough for your support for this project. Not only do we think it will provide an invaluable service in opening up young eyes in a respectful and curious way to the world, but it would really make the writer's mom happy if her imaginary friend got kind of famous.
Samples and Summaries
If you would like to review a sample before donating, we would be happy to send you one of the stories in basic Word format without illustration.
The summaries below don’t begin to include the amount of information given in each adventure and are presented here just to give you an idea of what happens. There is mystery and intrigue galore, as well as clues and foreshadowing throughout the series linking the stories as a unified whole. The individual stories intertwine the overarching story with country-specific folklore, language, geography, customs, traditions, beliefs, ways of living, or even flora and fauna. Also, each adventure ends with a two-page Country Breakdown where stats, history, facts and figures are presented as a 12-year-old would present them.
Spoilers below! But that should be okay, since you aren’t 10.
Crameye Junker (language genius who apparently attracts mythical figures)
Buster (his kid sister with the ability to really understand animals)
Lump (his baby brother who has a certain connection to plants)
Marco (his dad, leader of the Guardians)
Sophia (his mom, an author and all around wise one)
A-yi (their nanny/protector who is stronger than her stature would suggest)
Neva (his, um… best friend?... who understands technology a little too well)
Thor (Neva’s little sister, like Buster in almost every way)
Matias (Neva’s dad and Marco’s partner)
Ignazio (Marco’s estranged twin brother and leader of the opposing Erasers)
Sonia (married to Ignazio, and is also Matias’ ex-wife with whom she had Neva and Thor)
Crosspatch (son of Sonia and Ignazio who looks strikingly similar to Crameye)
Plus dozens of others making country-specific appearances…
Intro and Taiwan
After introducing himself, his family and surrounding characters, Crameye sets out on his own while his folks are shopping for things for their new apartment. Knowing he would probably do just that, his mother leaves a note for him with their building’s security guards that he has to be back home by 5:00 on the dot.
Setting out to explore his new hometown of Taipei, Crameye takes in as much as he can in his limited time. He eats new and rather strange food, he helps out a dragon boat team, and he gets invited to meet the students of an English class where he learns what life is like for kids in Taipei. Knowing his kid sister, Buster, would probably sneak out too, he checks in with her and learns she is lost at a busy flower market. With only an hour to go, he has to race to find her, get back home, and somehow cross through the temple parade that is going in in front of their building. He makes it home in time, of course. Just like he always does.
The whole family heads to Helsinki to meet up with his dad’s business partner and his two daughters, one of which (Neva) just happens to be something resembling Crameye’s soul mate, even though they are both too young to know what name to put on their relationship.
After setting out on a day of sightseeing, Crameye and Neva unexpectedly get a message from their dads instructing them to come find them, with directions only given through riddles. Once found, their dads, dark and mysterious as always, give them an opportunity to take their first mission as part of their grooming for the “company”. They take their mission, of course, and ultimately find themselves transporting an important package, and three rather strange ladies, all the way to a spot within the Arctic Circle. Along the way, they learn the beauty of silence (something rather difficult for the talkative Crameye) and the importance of leading with reason. His bond with Neva also gets cemented as something he can’t imagine not having.
From the starkness of Finland, the family next visits the vibrancy of Brazil. On his own yet again, Crameye meets a beautiful woman who helps him understand how Brazilians approach the concept of time, and how they are able to truly enjoy life. Moreover, she also gives him hints on how to swagger like a Brazilian.
His trip isn’t all fun though, as he deals with an angry Saci. Saci, a one-legged boy who smokes a pipe and emerges from dust devils to cause trouble, is a character from Brazilian folklore that Brazilians to this day blame when things go wrong. Saci, it turns out, isn’t very excited by Crameye coming into Brazil acting cocky. He decides to make Crameye’s life miserable by foiling his attempts to show off, even stealing his lucky red cap. With the beautiful Brazilian woman and her two sons helping, he is able to defeat the Saci, get his red cap back, and bring some happiness to the beautiful Brazilian’s tragic life.
With Neva far away and no new mission from his dad, Crameye is in a funk. After taking a walk through the crazy streets of Thailand, he comes to a quiet lane where, absentmindedly, he walks straight into a wall. For the rest of the story, you aren’t sure if everything is a dream, hallucinations from the heat, or is actually happening.
After coming to, a Buddhist monk sets Crameye off on a path to get out of his funk. After being instructed to only follow the right kind of energy, Crameye pretends he understands and, with a chip on his shoulder because Neva is so far away, sets out. This energy leads him into a tiger infested jungle where, in the end, Buster and a friendly monkey have to come save him. Then, learning the right energy to follow, he meets a different group of tigers that help him understand how everything and everyone are really connected. But then, waking up in a hospital with a bandage on his head, he isn’t sure if his adventure really happened… until that is, Buster reminds him that he owes her one while propping her feet up on his hospital bed.
The reader gets to go along with Crameye this time as he uses his genius phone to dictate things as they happen. After first being whisked away by his mom deep into Athens, he has chats with Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle before having a long talk with his mom about the role of philosophy.
The next morning, he wakes alone up in the hotel where he and his mom stayed, with just a note from his mom telling him that he needs to find his way back to their villa, and find out who he is along the way. Crameye has no choice and begins his odyssey home, which mirrors the path taken by Odysseus in Homer’s classic. Once he makes it back, his work is not done, though, as three others have come to the villa claiming that they are in fact Crameye Junker. A contest is then set up to determine who is the real Crameye Junker.
Crameye begins to learn the truth about his dad’s job, his family, and everyone’s strange abilities. This adventure begins when the family gets an emergency message while in Taipei and then must rush off to Zanzibar to handle a terribly important situation. Everyone is tense, and Crameye can clearly sense danger.
Once in Zanzibar, and after learning Neva was unable to come, Crameye is off on his own to explore Zanzibar and then Tanzania, while Buster and Neva’s little sister Thor head out with a guide to explore the wildlife of the Serengeti. On his adventure, Crameye meets a boy who looks a lot like him, and who also seems to have an amazing gift of languages. Soon, the two are approached by a young man who asks them for a ride to a remote village. The other boy declines, but Crameye takes him to where he needs to go. As it turns out, the young man needed to go to a Masaai ceremony where he was to become a warrior.
After witnessing the dramatic rites of passage, Crameye is called to certain coordinates by his mother. There, he rejoins his family and comes face to face with the evil Sonia who has a plan to wipe out the Masaai culture. After foiling her plans with the courageous help of A-yi and the plant-healing powers of his baby brother, they get tragic news that Thor has been kidnapped.
Peru Part One
Crameye and Neva learn all about their families as they speed to Peru to recue Thor. The two brothers, Marco and Ignazio, both started off on the same culture-preserving team. This is the time when Ignazio and Sonia were together and had Crosspatch. On the dads’ first solo missions, however, they each had experiences that would change them forever. Marco became even more devoted to protecting smaller cultures when a folk remedy in Libya saved his life. Ignazio, however, lost his dedication to the cause, as well as two fingers, during his mission to Papua New Guinea.
Sonia, not wanting to be with someone who was developing evil intentions, divorced Ignazio as he left to join the opposing forces. Not too much longer, Matias came along, and then so did Neva and Thor. A few years later, Sonia disappeared, apparently to rejoin Ignazio, and hadn’t been heard from since that night in Tanzania.
All that drama aside, they get down to business. Or rather, the parents do while the kids are given busywork surveying the Nazca Lines. They have their own idea, however, and with the help of an Andean condor launch their own plan to save Thor.
Peru Part Two
The grand rescue plan is put into action, and is only made possible by the kids taking ownership of their gifts and abilities. After commandeering a helicopter, Crameye, Neva and Buster follow the condor’s tip and race to Lake Titicaca where Thor is being held on a floating island built by the local Uru tribe. Leading Buster’s charge and with the help of a swarm of Titicaca giant frogs, Thor is rescued and taken to safety in Cuzco. The only thing left to do after that was for Neva to reunite with her mom…
In a dramatic scene set at Macchu Pichu as a storm is blowing in over the mountains, Crameye and Neva learn even more about their families as the five adults face off. In the end, Neva tearfully reunites with her mom as everyone learns she might not be as evil as everyone thought, and that some of her past choices might have been done to keep them safe. After their emotional journey, the good guys all go to Paris for a little R&R, where the next series of adventures begins…
No! Shipping costs were already considered when pricing out the rewards.
A lot of the rewards involve Chinese. Are the letters only about Chinese or are other cultures involved as well?
Chinese is featured so heavily here only because the author lives in Taiwan and his second language is Chinese. Plus, we thought they would make cool gifts. In the series, however, only one of the letters focuses on Chinese culture, while all the others focus on country-specific cultural aspects. Countries covered in the first series (in order) are: Taiwan, Finland, Brazil, Thailand, Greece, Tanzania, Peru (in a thrilling two-parter!)
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Pledge $5 or moreYou selected
My sincere gratitude and an artistic postcard of thanks sent from Taiwan.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $10 or moreYou selected
A postcard sent to anywhere in the world from Taiwan, with whatever you would like written on it. Just a fun way to surprise someone and support our project at the same time!Estimated delivery:
Pledge $25 or moreYou selected
This one is for the non-children... Want to speak a little Chinese? For helping us out with $25, you will receive a one-hour online Chinese lesson with myself and an honest to gosh native Chinese speaker! In addition, I will send you materials we can use during the lesson and to use as reference later. In one hour, we can't teach you everything about the language, BUT we can introduce you to some basics that will get you on the right track.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $25 or moreYou selected
The kid of your choice will receive the entire fully illustrated series emailed to him or her (or to an adult should they not have an email account, with the child's name in full caps in the message line) month by month. They will also get full access to the website/online community. Any emails returned to the character will get an automated response saying that he is out of the country and to keep up with him on his website.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $30 or moreYou selected
Own a bracelet just like the lucky charm worn by the main character's little sister, Buster. Crafted from Burmese jade, it is adjustable to fit little wrists as well as grown up ones. The bracelet will arrive is a decorative drawstring pouch.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $40 or moreYou selected
Continuing with rewards inspired by the first story in the series (and the fact that the author lives in Taiwan), for $40 you (or someone you like...) can have a lovely string of every animal in the Chinese zodiac, crafted from Burmese jade and topped with a Chinese knot.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $50 or moreYou selected
The kid of your choice will have his or her name in Chinese drawn by a calligraphy master on your choice of fan, wood, or scroll. Also, the recipient will receive an instruction sheet on how to understand, pronounce and write “My name is ____” in Chinese. If getting just this reward apart from the stories, it can arrive by the holidays and can be sent directly to the kids from the main character, or to you to give to the kids as you wish. For that matter, you could get one of these for yourself as well, because they really are cool.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $75 or moreYou selected
For 75 bucks, the lucky tyke will get eight months of professionally illustrated stories emailed to them, be able to join a fun and educational online community promoting culture, and receive something awesome they can hang on their wall (their name in Chinese done up in calligraphy) while leaning a little Chinese in the process.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $75 or moreYou selected
Since many folks may not have kids in their lives in the age range for these letters, here's one reward just for adults. Like the Chinese name for the kids, our renowned calligrapher will prepare for you a traditional auspicious couplet on either scroll or fan (of higher quality than that offered the kids because, well, your hands are probably cleaner). You will have your choice of message, selecting from such themes as longevity, harmony, good fortune, and so on. Great as gifts as well! Plus, I'll even include a description of the characters, explanation of their meaning, and instruction on how to pronounce them. I'll even set up a Skype or Face Time chat where you can practice your pronunciation with myself and a real life Chinese speaker!Estimated delivery:
Pledge $80 or moreYou selected
Use a stamp just like the main character's father, Marco, uses when he signs official documents. Featuring a dragon carved into shoushan stone imported from mainland China, the recipient will have their name in Chinese carved on the bottom of the stamp. It will be sent with a stamp/ink pad, as well as the explanation of their Chinese name and accompanying lesson. Choice of earth (shown), white and black.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $100 or moreYou selected
The entire 8-letter, professionally designed and illustrated series mailed in awesome envelopes and covered in foreign stamps arriving month by month at the child's home. How much fun will it be watching them running to the mailbox to see if another letter came? Full access to the website is also included.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $100 or moreYou selected
You know what? Here's another one just for adults. I guess it would be fine for the kiddos as well. For 100 bucks, you will receive three hours of basic Mandarin Chinese instruction online, with lessons and materials emailed to you in advance. I'll even make the lessons fun and will teach you the way I taught myself. It looks hard, but it really isn't... Classes will be divided into: 1. Pronunciation / Pinyin 2. Basic phrases 3. Basic grammar 4. Basic conversation. Your classes will be taught by myslef (my Chinese is good!) and a real life Chinese speaker (his Chinese is great!). Classes can also be tailored to your needs if, say, you are preparing a trip over this way and need some survival Chinese. I'll even set up classes for a small group of you for the same price. 加油！Estimated delivery:
Pledge $150 or moreYou selected
Wow! The kid is so lucky. For 150 bucks, they will get a monthly, fat envelope from abroad containing an awesome story, access to a fun online community, AND their Chinese name drawn by a calligraphy master on your choice of wood, fan, or scroll (plus the fun instruction sheet). Wow again!Estimated delivery:
Pledge $170 or moreYou selected
Same as above, plus the cool portfolio to keep them all in.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $200 or moreYou selected
Same as above, plus the lucky rascal will be automatically included in the Ambassador Club on the website, which will normally only be granted after sufficient activity (posts, comments, etc.).Estimated delivery:
Pledge $500 or moreYou selected
0 backers Limited (8 left of 8)
Really? 500 bucks! Thank you! For this amount, in addition to everything mentioned in Reward #12, the child of your choice will be included in an upcoming international adventure that will (hopefully) be mailed out to thousands of kids. We will need to arrange a Skype or Facetime session between you and the writer so he can learn about the kid and make an awesome character for him or her. The character will play a major role in the adventure.Estimated delivery:
- (30 days)