During my years of working as a school librarian, I read thousands of children's picture books. This is one of my very favorite read-aloud books. It just happens to be about Valentine's Day. Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch (paperback), by Eileen Spinelli, truly illustrates the power of love.
"Mr Hatch was tall and thin and he did not smile. Every morning at 6:30 sharp he would leave his brick house and walk eight blocks to the shoelace factory where he worked. At lunchtime he would sit alone in a corner, eat his cheese and mustard sandwich, and drink a cup of coffee. Sometimes he brought a prune for dessert." So begins the story of Mr Hatch, a lonely, quiet man that no one really ever noticed. That is, until the day the big box arrived in the mail. Mr Hatch had never received a package before. He excitedly ripped open the wrapping to find a large heart-shaped box filled with candy, and a special note that said, "Somebody loves you." "And then he did something he had never done before: He laughed. He laughed and danced and clapped his hands." He went out for a walk and met and helped his neighbors. He brought his big heart-shaped box to work and shared it with all his co-workers. He baked brownies and made lemonade and had a big party for all the neighborhood children in his backyard and played his harmonica. Mr Hatch bloomed! But all his newfound joy was about to end when the embarrassed postman knocked at the door.....The package had been delivered to the wrong address! But by this time he has made many new friends who care very much and inspire him with the message that somebody does love him after all!
We all know Mr. Hatch--he's that grumpy old man down the street or the weird guy who catches the bus on the corner. Not only do we know him, but odds are, we have all felt like a Mr. Hatch at some point in our lives--slightly outcast, a little unloved or forgotten. What we discover is that although Mr. Hatch WAS unloved and forgotten, it was truly his own behaviour that isolated him from his world. For the Hatch in us, we learn the power of positive action; for the side of us that looks at the Hatches of the world and judges, it's a reminder that we don't really know them, and that simple acts of kindness can mean so very much. The impact of kind gestures, accidental or intentional, have far-reaching ripple effects.
This book is a wonderful story to share with children of all ages. It has been used by pastors to inspire their congregations to reach out to the unloved and unlovely. It's message is appropriate on Valentine's Day and everyday.