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Children's Fiction Values & Virtues

Letters to a Prisoner

by (author) Jacques Goldstyn

translated by Angela Keenlyside

Owlkids Books Inc.
Initial publish date
Sep 2017
Values & Virtues, Politics & Government, Emotions & Feelings, Law & Crime
Recommended Age
5 to 18
Recommended Grade
4 to 12
Recommended Reading age
12 to 18
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2017
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Download Teacher’s Guide

Download Teacher’s Guide

Where to buy it


Told entirely through illustrations, Letters to a Prisoner is a wordless story about the power of hope and the written word. Inspired by Amnesty International’s letter-writing campaigns to help free people who have been jailed for expressing their opinion, the book tells the story of a man who is arrested during a peaceful protest. In solitary confinement, he begins to despair—until a bird delivers a letter of support written by somebody outside the prison. Every day more missives arrive until the prisoner escapes his fate on wings made of letters.

Simple illustrations convey plenty of rich symbolism to provoke thought and discussion. A letter from the author provides more information about Amnesty International’s Write for Rights campaign.

About the authors

JACQUES GOLDSTYN is an illustrator and a political cartoonist. He is a regular contributor to the children’s magazine Les Débrouillards and his books include Letters to a Prisoner and Bertolt, both of which were chosen as a Kirkus Reviews Best Picture Books of 2017. He has twice won Le Grand Prix du journalisme indépendant for editorial illustration and lives in Montreal, Quebec.

Jacques Goldstyn's profile page

Angela Keenlyside's profile page


  • Commended, Alberta Rocky Mountain Book Award
  • Commended, Notable Children's Book in the Language Arts
  • Commended, Canadian Children's Book Centre's Best Books for Kids and Teens
  • Commended, Silent Books Collection
  • Commended, TD Summer Reading Club top 10 list
  • Commended, Notable Books for a Global Society
  • Unknown, Kirkus Best of 2017

Editorial Reviews

"An inspiring, thought-provoking story about the power of the written word, especially fitting for anyone addressing social justice issues with children."

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

"This deserves to be everywhere children are learning about the wider world."

Publishers Weekly - STARRED REVIEW

"Goldstyn was inspired by the letter-writing campaigns of human rights organization Amnesty International. His book is an accessible and inspiring tribute. "The pen is mightier than the sword" lives on."

Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

"A stunning wordless ode to those whose voices have been unjustly silenced, Letters to a Prisoner is a compelling reminder of the combined, collective strength of many, united in a single cause."

Canadian Review of Materials

"Originally published in French...and dedicated to imprisoned Saudi activist Raif Badawi, this is sure to spark discussions of human rights and social justice."


"There is a great deal of sadness expressed in these wordless pages; at the same time, the author injects slight touches of humor that allow the book to make just the right impression for those children who will hold it in their hands. "

Sal's Fiction Addiction

"This is an absolutely incredible book. A moving tale about what can happen when people band together and use the power of words."

The Baby Bookworm

" inspiration for all ages."


"This book could be used in classrooms as a strong starting point to conversations and the important issues brought to light will tug on all readers’ heart strings."

School Library Connection

"Children who follow the story in this book will see how many voices can indeed bring about change. They will come to appreciate that everyone, anyone, can make the world a better place if they try."

Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Review

"Universal... An elegant picture book tribute to the power of organizing and the plight of political prisoners, best suited for older readers. A first purchase."

School Library Journal

"This is sure to spark discussions of human rights and social justice."


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