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Monday, February 11, 2008

I Love Mr. Hatch!

Every year, starting on about December 26th, the bookstores start to blush. Not with embarassment, but with books. Rosy, shiny, pink-and-red books, served up all pretty for that Hallmarkiest of holidays, Valentine’s Day.

I never buy them. I rarely even peruse them. Because in my humble opinion, the best Valentine’s Day book has already been written, by the talented Eileen Spinelli (illustrations by Paul Yalowitz). Every year, on February 14th, I pull out my dog-eared copy of SOMEBODY LOVES YOU, MR. HATCH and bring it to my kids’ school, where I read it out loud to a lucky class of kids hopped up on pink frosting. This book never disappoints. The story of poor lonely Mr. Hatch, who gets a life-transforming giant heart-shaped box of chocolates in the mail, always hits its mark just like Cupid’s arrow.

My next-favorite Valentine’s Day book is called I LOVE, which sounds suspiciously saccharin, but is not. It is a translated volume by Brigitte Minne (illustrated by Natali Fortier) and it works because it is simultaneously universal and also wholeheartedly French. There’s no plot per se, just a listing of all of the things - grande et petite - that the young narrator adores. Said narrator goes unidentified (one presumes it is the young girl featured in many of the illustrations, but at times one wonders if it shifts to her brother as well), but her philosophy that life - and love - is in the details is one everyone, young and old, should be able to identify with.

Before I sign off today, I have a couple of announcements:

I’m doing StoryTheatre! Which is a sort of spoken-word-theatre-for-preschoolers thang. It will be on Feb. 29 and March 1 at Imagination Stage (in Bethesda, Maryland, a.k.a. The Cultural Center of the Universe). If you live in the area and your 1-to-6 year old likes animals, books, or pictures projected on a BIG screen, you should call for tickets before this shin-dig sells out!

Also, starting this Wednesday (2/13/08), I will be teaching a class in children’s book writing at The Writer’s Center (also located in Bethesda, Maryland). I invite those of you who live in the area (or are interested in relocating here for the next eight weeks) to join the class, which should be a lot of fun.

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