13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Johnson, Maureen.  13 Little Blue Envelopes. HarperCollins Publishers.  2006. ISBN 0060541431

Reader’s Annotation: Ginny receives a package from her aunt containing 13 blue envelopes and a set of directions that will lead her across Europe.  The only thing is her aunt is dead and apparently had kept a number of secrets from her beloved niece.

Plot Summary: Ginny and her aunt Peg were always very close and Ginny felt like she was a different, more adventurous person while with her aunt.  So when her aunt up and moves to Europe without any warning or even letting the family know where exactly she is Ginny is hurt.  Then her aunt dies but leaves Ginny with a package containing 13 blue envelopes with instructions and tasks to complete.  The adventure will lead Ginny across Europe, reveal secrets Peg kept from the entire family and perhaps introduce Ginny to a bit of romance.

Critical Evaluation

My first thought when I started reading was what in the world was Ginny’s parents thinking?  It sort of reminds me of Dora in which you have this young girl traveling the world and in Ginny’s case having no contact whatsoever with her family and no set itinerary.  I can’t think of any sane parents who would let their teenage daughter go on such a trip but once you suspend the disbelief over this it was an interesting story.

While I didn’t dislike Ginny I never truly came to love her.  It was her travels throughout Europe that entranced me.  Like many people I’ve always dreamed about being able to backpack through Europe, visit these famous sites and maybe even have a few flings or romances with European men.  This aspect will really draw in the teenage audience who wants to convince their parents to let them have an after high school adventure before heading off to college.

About the author

Maureen’s first book, The Key to the Golden Firebird, came out in 2004 and 13 Little Blue Envelopes came out in 2005.  In 2007 her book, The Bermudez Triangle, was challenged by a parent in Oklahoma.  Johnson immediately replied and called for more transparency in the school’s challenge process.  In the end Maureen’s book was not banned but was put in a restricted part of the school’s library.

The sequel to 13 Little Blue Envelopes, The Last Little Blue Envelope, was published in 2011.



Curriculum Ties


Book talking idea

Have a series of instructions on where to pick this book up, read it, discuss it, etc. blue envelopes to fit in with the theme of the book.

If you received a set of instructions and tasks from someone you were close to but who was no longer alive would you follow them?

Reading level

Ages 14 and up.

Challenge Issues


Why did I include this book?

Maureen Johnson and this series in particular has come highly recommended.


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Filed under Fiction, Realistic/Contemporary

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