Being proactive due to my plate being full with my other two classes, I just submitted an assignment for LIS 6510 that is due on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. The assignment called for me to select a book written or illustrated by a native Michigander.


Bergel, C. (2000). Mail by the pail. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press.

Being a lover of history, earlier this semester I toured the Huron Light Ship museum in Port Huron. As the tour was concluding, I asked the docent as to what made him interested in the Light Ship: he told me a story about how his father used to deliver mail to the ships on the St. Clair River / Detroit River. When he was young, it was an occasional treat to accompany his father on a very small boat while delivering the mail to the men on the freighters. After resuming my studies later that day, I was pleased to see this individual assignment via the syllabus. I knew that I wanted to do find a book about the Great Lakes and freighters. Thanks to the Michigan DNR website, I was able to quickly and easily find this book.

J.W. Westcott II
Photo from

Published in 2000 by Wayne State University Press, the book tells a story about a family in which the father works aboard a Great Lakes freighter named the Big Laker. Because the father’s cell phone is broke, he is unable to call home and instead writes letters. Learning that her father would not be home for his upcoming birthday, she creates a birthday card and begins to wonder how he sends and receives mail while aboard the freighter. The mother explains the process by introducing the concept of a unique marine post office operated by the J.W. Westcott Company. Operating 24/7 during the shipping season, the mail is organized and sorted by ship and delivered via a small boat, the J.W. Westcott II, once the freighter enters the shipping channel in the Detroit River. Mail and parcels are transferred between the delivery boat and the freighter via pail hence the book’s title Mail by the Pail. At the close of the story, an entire page is dedicated to the history of the J.W. Westcott Company.

Postal service — Michigan, Lake — Juvenile fiction.
Ship letters — Juvenile fiction.
Fathers and daughters — Juvenile Fiction.

Based on readability and the illustrations, this book would be appropriate for students in the later part of first grade through third grade. Although the older students might not enjoy the story, I am certain that they will be impressed by the concept of “mail by the pail.” The story weaves together fiction and non-fiction giving the reader a lesson on the Great Lakes and a historical Michigan company. Bergel includes a brief synopsis, embedded within the story, of how to address an envelope: what element goes where (return address, upper left-hand corner; delivery address, centered; postage, upper right-hand corner) — this book would appropriately supplement letter writing exercises in the classroom.