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Our nomination for the most spine-chilling biographical anecdote ever told is about Gary Gilmore, the spree murderer whom Norman Mailer profiled so vividly in The Executioner’s Song. One year, when Gary was what we now call a 'tweener', he tried to persuade his classmates that they were too old to exchange valentines. He lost a classroom vote: Everybody else wanted the familiar ritual, or they were just irked with Gary ’s effort to act cool. On V-day itself, Gary brought valentines for everyone, but he received none.
Never doubt the power of a Valentine.
The gentler, funnier story that proves this adage is Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch, in which a shy, captive-to-his-habits introvert receives a Valentine note from a secret admirer. There’s also a gargantuan heart-shaped box of chocolates involved—which pretty much guarantees that kids can be sucked into a story that otherwise might seem too quiet to be a crowd pleaser.
Illustrator Paul Yalowitz knows better. He dedicated his work on the book to “To that little bit of Mr. Hatch in all of us.” Indeed, children of all ages have known to doubt whether they are special enough, whether they are worthy of an out-sized expression of affection. No doubt they will be thrilled to see how Mr. Hatch blossoms from a man “who keeps to himself” and eats a daily lunch of a turkey wing and a prune into a smiling neighbor famous for his fresh-baked brownies and harmonica tunes. But—when the postman rings a second time—will all his new confidence be lost?
Eileen Spinelli has written lots of picture books, and they have in common a current of sentimentality that flows like maple sap in springtime trees. Sometimes that’s an acquired taste, but in her best books—Sophie’s Masterpiece, The Best Story and Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch—it’s refreshing. Certainly she’s an author dedicated to showing young readers how to find the best in people, whether they are looking at others or themselves.
Ages 4 to 104!