My latest picture book IT CAME IN THE MAIL went through many drafts, revisions, and changes (over 5 years worth!). So much so that the first manuscript I wrote with the title "IT CAME IN THE MAIL" is almost an entirely different story. I thought it would be fun to share that first draft, so without further ado I give to you . . .


by Ben Clanton

James loved to get mail.

So it is too bad he never got any.

When he asked his parents . . . “WHY do I NEVER get any MAIL! It’s not fair.”

His dad said . . . 

“It’s all junk anyways.”

But James liked junk (he had a big pile of it in his room), so he asked again . . . “BUT WHY do I NEVER get any of IT!?”

His mom explained.

“Jimmy Bear (James can’t stand it when she calls him that . . . except for when he does), in order to get mail you usually have to send it.”

James didn’t know who he should send mail to, so he just sent a note to the mailbox. It went something like this:

Dear Mailbox,

I would like to get something in the mail. SOMETHING BIG.



As soon as James put the letter in, the mailbox began to shake. It began making all sorts of strange sounds. 

James could tell something big must have come in the mail and he was sure it was for him. When James looked inside, he was met by a blast of fire. A dragon! A dragon had come in the mail! And it was for James.

When James showed his dad the dragon, his dad said . . . 

“You had better take good care of it. A pet dragon is a BIG responsibility.”

James wasn’t entirely sure how to take care of a dragon (none of his friends had one), so he went to the library and got THE FLAME PROOF GUIDE TO DRAGON CARE.

This is what it said to do:              

  1. Dragons eat a lot . . . feed regularly.
  2. Give it a nice princess and a castle to keep it in.
  3. Be sure to fly your dragon at least twice a day.
  4. Make sure your dragon has lots of gold.
  5. Try not to get eaten, burned alive, or crushed by your dragon.

James wasn’t too sure where to get dragon food, a princess, a castle, and gold, so he sent the mailbox another note.

That magical mailbox gave James all he needed.

“Ugh!” (James trying to carry a huge plate of meat)

“Unhand me!” (James carrying a princess)

“Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!” (James taking his dragon for a flight)

But James was finding out that taking care of a dragon is a lot of work. So, he put a note on the dragon (RETURN TO SENDER), and shoved it into the mailbox, but the mailbox popped the dragon right back out with a new note (ADDRESS UNKNOWN).

James was stuck with the dragon . . . and the princess, and the castle, and all the rest.

What could he do?!

James sent the mailbox another note:

Dear Mailbox,

I know you won’t take back the dragon, but can you please send me an idea about what to do with it?



An idea soon zoomed out of the mailbox and struck James.


The idea was this:

Where do dragons come from?

Yes, really more of a question, but that is just the sort of thing one should expect from a magical mailbox.

James’s dragon had come from the mailbox, but was that where dragons come from? James thought about where he had first heard about dragons . . . in stories!

James ran to the library and checked out a magic book. 

He then shoved the dragon, the princess, the castle, and most of the gold back where it belonged . . . in a book.

And so ends this book with James learning a very important lesson . . . or, then again, maybe not! (James is getting something else in the mail now . . . something big)