Today is the last Favorite Book Friday post before Valentine's Day. Therefore, I thought it would be fitting to share a book I adore that just happens to have a Valentine's gift central to it's plot.
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Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli is one of those books for children that people of all ages should read. [Recognize the author's name? Probably. She's written a ton of books for kids and is one half of a power couple. Her husband, Jerry Spinelli, is also a very successful children's author.]
The first time I read this book, I was struck hard with the message that I should be more aware of those around me and what they may be feeling and going through. It's so easy to get caught up in ourselves and our busy lives and sort of disregard those we see everyday who may be suffering--those like Mr. Hatch.
Mr. Hatch lives a sad, lonely, and boring life. Clearly, he's depressed and believes no one cares for him. Then one day, Valentine's Day actually, he receives a big box of chocolates in the mail. Along with the candy is an anonymous message: "Somebody loves YOU". That simple gift and message begin to transform Mr. Hatch's life from a world of gray to one bursting with friendship and love. Mr. Hatch is a changed man.
Some time later, Mr. Hatch discovers he received that life-changing Valentine by mistake; it was intended for someone else. As you can imagine, this is devastating news. Mr. Hatch reverts to his old, lonely life. But don't fret! Though I won't give the ending away, I will say it is a happy one.
As I mentioned, this book's message is a good one for all ages. Though children should be taught empathy and compassion, I think more often it is adults who need to practice such virtues. Children frequently possess those qualities in spades, whereas adults are calloused, jaded, and selfish under the guise of being "busy". I know I'm certainly guilty.
After I read the book I asked myself whose life could I improve with just a little kindness. Any book that can cause you to evaluate yourself, whether it's for adults or children, is pretty valuable.
Though the main lesson of this story is that we should be friendly and show love to others, I see a secondary, more subtle and equally important message. Whether the author intended it, I do not know. But upon letting the story sit on my mind, I realize it also relays that we have responsibility in how others treat us. If we want friends, we must show ourselves to be friendly. People are not likely to approach someone who comes across as not wanting to be approached.
I've mentioned before that I teach a middle/high school cooperative class once a month. This month I'm going to conclude class by reading Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch. The middle and high school years are ripe for bullying and exclusion. Perhaps a simple picture book can cause some of these big kids to see their peers in a different, kinder light. It certainly did so for this adult.
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