Carrie Brooks received an unexpected special delivery in the mail last month that made her a bit of a celebrity among her LaVerna Evans Elementary School second grade classmates.
In January, the 7-year-old, as part of a class project, mailed a letter and a “Flat Stanley” to President George W. Bush at the White House in Washington, D.C. The response arrived in mid-May and included a photograph of the president and his wife Laura.
Flat Stanley is the title character of a 1964 children’s book by Jeff Brown. In that tale, Stanley Lambchop is flattened when a bulletin board falls on him. He survives and makes the best of his altered state.
Soon Stanley is sliding into rooms through the opening at the bottom of closed doors. He entertains his younger brother by becoming a kite to be played with. He even helps catch some art thieves by posing as a painting on the wall.
But the one special advantage Stanley finds with his two-dimensional existence is that now he may visit friends by being mailed in an envelope.
In 1995, third-grade teacher Dale Hubert of Ontario, Canada, created the Flat Stanley Project and had his students mail Stanleys to family and friends in distant places. The purpose was to facilitate letter writing by his students as they documented Flat Stanley’s activities and adventures.
Today, the Flat Stanley Project has spread worldwide and has grown to provide an opportunity for students to make connections in hundreds of schools. The students begin by reading the book. Then they make paper Flat Stanleys and a journal to document his travels. The Flat Stanley and the journal are then mailed off and the recipients are asked to treat the figure as a visiting guest, to add entries to his journal and to return both after a set period of time.
Adelita Roberts, Carrie’s teacher, said all Evans second graders mailed their Flat Stanleys off soon after returning from the Christmas holiday. Each student was allowed to decide where they would send their Flat Stanley.
Carrie, the daughter of Kim and Steve Brooks of O’Fallon, said her mother suggested she send hers to the White House. Included among the other chosen destinations were Colorado, Iowa, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
Roberts said the students included letters asking for information about the area the recipients’ lived and a photo or postcard showing a point of interest.
“A lot of the Flat Stanleys were sent to family, friends and grandparents,” she noted. “We started receiving responses in about a month and it took about two months for most of the replies to come in.
“But we had not received one from Carrie’s letter until this month (May),” she noted.
Carrie said she was surprised when her letter and its accompanying photograph arrived from the White House. She was sure her Flat Stanley had been lost.
To date, Flat Stanley has been photographed with such celebrities as Clay Aiken, Sean Astin, Bill Gates, Josh Groban and The Blue Man Group.
The second graders at Evans can now say one of their Flat Stanleys has also visited the White House.