In the kitchen the other day, I told Cathy this was one of my favorite Thank You Project letters so far. To take the opportunity to thank someone who had a hand in shaping you as a human being is pretty incredible. Hopefully, this letter will make it to Aris Demetrios, the oldest son of Virginia Lee Burton. She wrote and illustrated several of my absolute favorite children’s books (Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and The Little House). Sadly, she died in 1968 but her wonderful, award-winning stories live on.


Dear Aris,

My name is Julie Turner. I am a writer in Columbia, SC. I have started a yearlong project of writing thank you letters to an important group of people. Some are local, some far away. Some people I know well, and others — like you — will have absolutely no idea who I am.

I come to you by way of your mother, Virginia Lee Burton. During her life, your mother created several of my all-time favorite children’s books: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and The Little House. I read these two books time and again throughout my childhood and today read them to my own two sons, ages seven and three. Now that I am 41, I have rediscovered the important messages of the stories, especially The Little House.

What I really wanted to share with you is that I truly believe reading The Little House shaped my guiding principles.

Today, I live in a great 1950s split-level ranch house in a mature city suburb. We revel in our home’s history, and wouldn’t trade its charm and frightful rooftop R-values for anything. Our home has beautiful old wood windows and plaster walls. It’s small by today’s standards, but just the perfect size for a family of four. It has character and detailing no new home can ever match. It is our Little House.

I hope this letter in some way honors your mother for the gifts she’s given to generations of children and adults. She taught me friendship, gratitude and appreciation through her wonderful stories. I have proudly passed her books on to my own children and will again to their children someday.

The world is a better place thanks to people like Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne, and to your mother who brought them into our lives.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart,

Julie Turner


The Thank You Project is a yearlong Wordsmith blog project recognizing people who need to be thanked more often for their many contributions to our lives and communities. 

12 Replies to “Virginia”

  1. I just got a phone call from Aris! How nice of him to call me. We talked about what it was like growing up in their family, about his mother and how those books have now touched three generations. What an absolute treat!

  2. I love this Julie! What a cool thing you are doing! I never read The Little House but Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is one of my all time favorites and I was looking for it in the house the other day because I want to read it again. (I know it’s here somewhere – I live in a little house, too!) Thanks for sharing this with us!

    1. Thanks, Nancy! You should read The Little House. One thing he mentioned to me last night on the phone is that if you flip through the pages, the little house is always in the same place. It only moves on one page. Pretty cool!

  3. Julie, what a great idea and a beautiful letter. I can’t wait to read more throughout the next year. You are an inspiration, my friend.

  4. What a wonderful letter. You’re a great writer, Julie, and I love your enthusiasm and passion. How could he not respon?! Congratulations and I always look forward to reading your work!

  5. Love this thank-you note! I’m glad that Aris called you back. I’m sure he appreciated that his Mom continues to live through her influence on your children. Julie you are an incredible friend and I’m grateful for you!

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