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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

The Empty Envelope by Ron Roy has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting [magazine] (https://store.focusonthefamily.com/goaa- thriving "magazine"). It is the fifth book in the “A to Z Mysteries” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Three third grade friends — Dink Duncan, Josh Pinto and Ruth Rose Hathaway — live near one another in the small town of Greenlawn, Connecticut. Within the past week, Dink received four letters addressed to a “D. Duncan,” even though the state was “CO,” which means Colorado, not Connecticut. The zip code, though, directed the letters to Dink.

The arrival of the mail interrupts a game of volleyball between Dink, Josh, Ruth Rose and her little brother, Nate. Dink receives another strange letter from “O. Bird,” found in the return address, even though all the letters are signed, “Mother.”

The four kids traipse into Dink’s kitchen for lunch. They want to read what Mother has to say in this letter, but the envelope is empty. The kids question why Mother would send an empty envelope.

They return to their volleyball game but are interrupted by the arrival of a tall, strange woman. The woman professes to be Doris Duncan, coming to reclaim the letters written to her by her deceased mother. When Dink returns to retrieve the letters, however, all five are gone. Flustered, Dink assures the woman he will find her letters. Ms. Duncan will return at 6 o’clock for them.

After discovering that Ruth Rose’s little brother, Nate, hid the mail while playing mailman, Dink, Josh and Ruth Rose scrutinize the letters and envelopes, searching for any indication of why Doris would come all the way from Colorado for a few vague letters and an empty envelope. They soon realize that not one but three sunflower stamps adorn the final envelope, unlike the single stamps upon each of the other letters. Lifting the fifth envelope up to the light, something dark appears hidden beneath the three stamps.

Ruth Rose boils water so the steam will easily peel away the three stamps. This reveals a hidden cellophane-wrapped blue stamp featuring a misprinted, upside-down airplane. Determined to learn why this small stamp warranted such a hiding place, Dink, Josh and Ruth Rose return to the content of the letters. Once again utilizing the tactic of lifting the letters to the light, the kids discover tiny pinpricks through several of the first letters of certain words. Strung together, the hidden message tells of a “Jenny” hidden on the fifth envelope.

Unsure what a “Jenny” may be and pressed for time, the three rush to their local library to conduct research on the stamps. They soon learn that the small stamp in their possession is worth over $50,000. Upon further investigation, they discover that just such a stamp went missing, presumed stolen, from the collection of an elderly woman in New York — the same place from which O. Bird sent the letters.

Convinced that Doris Duncan and O. Bird are crooks, the three kids devise a plan to capture them and return the stolen property. Ruth Rose calls Officer Fallon, a local policeman, who contacts the true owner of the stamp, Miss Clementine Painter. Ruth Rose then calls Doris Duncan at her hotel and says she’ll return the stamp to Doris in exchange for $500. She proposes to meet at the library the next day at noon.

The next day, Clementine Painter sits disguised behind a newspaper at the library, while Officer Fallon pretends to doze beneath a book. Doris Duncan and her partner, Otto Bird, approach Ruth Rose, who hands over the stamp in exchange for the money. Once the thieves hold the stolen merchandise, Officer Fallon arrests them for theft and mail fraud. Miss Painter confronts the two and, before Officer Fallon hauls them away, collects her stamp.

Miss Painter treats everyone to ice cream. Afterward, Dink and Ruth Rose propose another game of volleyball, but Josh declines in order to search through his mother’s vacuum, the location where Clementine Painter initially discovered her little Jenny stamp.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Ruth Rose yells to her mother that she and her friends are headed to the library, though her mother never appears. No other parents are shown or referenced in this story.

Officer Fallon listens and advises the three kids, while ensuring their safety. The librarian scolds Ruth Rose for raising her voice.





Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss- books.

Additional Comments/Notes

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

8 to 10




Ron Roy






Record Label



Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company


On Video

Year Published





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