Sheffield schoolboy Toby Little had a dream – a dream to send a letter to every country across the globe.
His proud mum Sabine never thought her son’s summer project would turn into a three-year quest to connect with people across the globe – but it did.
Toby, aged eight, has now sent a letter to every country in the world including every state in the USA.
The Stocksbridge Junior School pupil has penned more than 750 letters and has boxes full of replies from all four corners of the globe.
Now the best letters and replies feature in a new book called Dear World, How Are You?.
The youngster has also achieved world-wide recognition appearing on news outlets in Australia, USA, Serbia, Vietnam, Canada and Lebanon.
Starting out aged five, Toby, from Bolsterstone, near Sheffield, took inspiration from a book he was given to read at school.
‘A Letter to New Zealand’ explains the journey and process a letter goes through to get to the other side of the world.
Mum Sabine, a languages lecturer at the University of Sheffield, said: “The book had a map in it and Toby realised that New Zealand was a long way away. He had only just learned to write and he asked me if he could write a letter to New Zealand.
“I didn’t actually know anybody there, but I figured that I might be able to ask around and find somebody.”
Toby then asked his mum if he could write to every country in the world.
Toby’s first letter was to a woman called Patricia in Volcano in Hawaii.
He sat at home with his mum and picked five countries he liked the sound of. She then wrote a post on her Facebook asking whether any friends could help and the offers came flooding in.
Toby then set about hand-writing letters to research scientists in Antarctica, gamekeepers in Chad and even to Nelson Mandela.
And people responded in their droves – sometimes sending photos, recipes or drawings, telling Toby a little about where they lived, how they lived, what food they ate, what school was like, and, important for dinosaur fan Toby, whether their country had fossils.
Toby wrote to the last country on the list on the October 18, 2013, taking four months and two days to write a letter to every country in the world.
The experience helped him realise not all the children live like him – and the caring youngster has raised almost £3,000 for ShelterBox, a charity that provides aid to countries affected by war and natural disasters.
The young writer said replies from Antarctica, Lebanon and Michigan in the USA are his favourites.
He said: “I liked Michigan because I wrote to somebody who worked in the Henry Ford museum in Detroit and when I went there the person took time off work and spent the day with us showing us around the museum.”
n Dear World, How Are You? By Toby Little is published by Penguin priced £12.99.
To order your copy for £10.99 plus p&p call 0844 871 1514.