Kids Book Club: Mail by the Pail

Welcome to our Captain Scupper’s Kids Book Club. We will be recommending some of our favorite Great Lakes children’s books. Each of these books highlights different and important parts of the Great Lakes experience.

written by Colin Bergel
illustrated by Mark Koenig


Mary lives in Manistee, a port on Lake Michigan. She wants to send her father a birthday card, since he won’t be home for his birthday. Her father works on The Big Laker, a lake freighter that delivers iron, stone and coal to ports on the Great Lakes. Because her father is on a lake freighter, Mary’s card can’t be delivered the usual way, instead it will be sent as Mail by the Pail.

First published in 2000, Mail by the Pail uses the story of Mary and her father to show a unique part of Great Lakes history, and life today, working on a Great Lakes freighter. Sailors still get mail by the pail, delivered by the J.W. Westcott II, as they sail through the Detroit River.

BUY THE BOOK: Purchase your own copy of the book at our online store here and proceeds go to support the National Museum of the Great Lakes.

FREE RESOURCE: Learn more about the J.W. Westcott II in this October 6, 2016 video from Great Big Story.


Mail a message to a Great Lakes freighter. Depending upon the time of year, you could send a holiday card, a letter or a postcard. The crew members always appreciate getting mail. You can address your letter to:

Great Lakes Freighter
Marine Post Office
Detroit, MI 48222

If you use the address above, the J.W. Westcott II will deliver your letter to any freighter passing through Detroit. If you would like to choose a specific boat, visit to see which boats are sailing. You can filter by type of boat, and you want to pick a freighter. Just replace the words “Great Lakes Freighter” with the name of the boat in the address. Don’t forget the stamp!