Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli. I’m terribly, terribly sorry that I didn’t mention this book before Valentine’s Day, but hopefully you will forgive me after adding it to your library. The story first centers around the holiday, but it’s certainly a book you will enjoy reading all year long. My mother taught elementary school, and this book was a favorite of hers. She bought it for E many years ago, and now it is a favorite of ours.
The story begins with a very quiet and withdrawn Mr. Hatch. There is a predictable pattern to his days, and a loneliness as well. He crosses paths with others, but he never interacts with them, and at first he seems perfectly content to order his life in this manner.
And then the postman shows up on his doorstep with a decidedly out-of-the-ordinary package, and Mr. Hatch discovers that he has a secret admirer. At first he doesn’t even know how to react – he tries to go about his weekend chores as if nothing has changed. Except that he finally realizes that everything has changed, and the very changed Mr. Hatch becomes the most generous, fun-loving guy in the neighborhood simply because he believes that someone, somewhere, loves him. When, a few months later, a very distraught and apologetic postman shows back up at his door confessing his delivery error, the book takes a very abrupt turn, and Mr. Hatch immediately reverts back to his lonely existence. His absence in his neighbors’ lives leaves such a tremendous hole that they come together to convince him that – valentine or no valentine – he is very, very loved.
Do you ever read the copyright page of books? I do, especially illustrated books. You can sometimes find interesting information about the illustrator’s medium there, especially if there isn’t information on the fly leaf. I’ve always admired the colored pencil drawings in this book, and the perfectly uniform “texture” that appears throughout the renderings. I like the “Note on the Art” on the copyright page of the book illustrator Paul Yalowitz’s work – it reads as follows:
The illustrations in this book were first drawn with ebony pencil on bristol plate paper and then colored over with Derwent colored pencils. Because the artist is right-handed, he starts drawing on the left side of the paper and moves to the right so that the picture won’t smudge. The paper is very smooth, and only the artist knows where that mysterious texture comes from.
E and I read that and thought it was so cool. And mysterious. I love studying the details, and understanding the process behind the illustrations. I love paying attention to the objects the artist puts onto each page, as well as the ones that are purposefully left out. We love Mr. Hatch in our house, and I think you just might too.
Find these titles at your favorite local independent bookstore. Happy reading!