Eileen Spinelli's Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch
Children's book review by Suzanne Holland
Once in a while, you come across a book that hits the mark on all fronts.
Exciting plot, good illustrations, a dose of pathos and a satisfying ending all help to create a book that holds everyone’s attention. Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli is just such a book.
Is it a great book? Quite possibly it is. Whenever I read it in my classroom around Valentine’s Day I can literally feel the change in energy. What starts out as a nice story line quickly becomes a heart-rending drama. Breaths are held until the last few pages of the book. Then, sighs and smiles of satisfaction!
Do I have your attention yet?? Good! Time for a plot preview!!
Mr. Hatch is an ordinary man living a lonely, well ordered life. He works in a shoelace factory, eats a solitary lunch of a cheese sandwich, makes the same regular stops on the way home for a paper and dinner, and spends the night alone. This is his routine, day after boring day. The illustrations by Paul Yalowitz support this drab picture with the grays and browns of the colored pencil drawings.
Then one day (dramatic voice change) Mr. Hatch receives an anonymous package in the mail. It is a giant heart shaped box of candy and a note that simply says, “Somebody loves you”.
Mr. Hatch becomes giddy with delight! He has a secret admirer!
“Then he does something he had never done before: He laughed”.
The audience usually grins at this part. How fun to receive a big box of candy in the mail!!
Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch continues with Mr. Hatch taking on a new outlook at life. After all, he reasons, he does not know who the admirer is. It could be one of his neighbors or co-workers, so he had better be nice to everyone, just in case!!
Naturally, everyone is amazed at the transformation. Mr. Hatch is chatty, and friendly! He shares the candy, and on his way home from work deviates from his usual routine.
He watches the newsstand so the owner can go to the doctor, he finds the lost little girl of the grocery owner, and bakes brownies for the neighborhood children. Music and a party ensue and the drawings become colorful and animated. Life is grand for Mr. Hatch.
Although it might spoil the flow of the story, this could be a good time to comment about how happiness is contagious, and that Mr. Hatch is happy because he is helping others. That’s a judgment call!!
The inevitable happens. The postman returns and sadly informs Mr. Hatch that the package was delivered to him by mistake. There was no secret admirer for him. As Mr. Hatch mournfully puts it, “Nobody loved me after all”.
Somehow, Eileen Spinelli and Paul Yalowitz capture the essence of heartbreak. This is the point of the story when I can feel the shock and dismay of my little listeners. Naturally, I am using my saddest voice to read that Mr. Hatch went back to his old, lonely ways.
Well, no good deed goes unnoticed and Mr. Hatch’s neighbors rally around as they recall all the kind things he had done for them. They plan a big surprise party for him, and at the end Mr. Hatch says, “I do believe somebody loves me after all”!
As I finish this book, I allow a few moments for that “aahhh” moment, that great feeling you get when you are truly satisfied. I always see the children grinning at each other and their worried expressions clear in relief.
Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli really is a great read, and just right for later discussion.
Read more of Suzanne's reviews.
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