Friday, February 10, 2017

Happy Love Day! (FAMILY magazine reviews)

Have a look at these terrific tales to share with young people in your life. Neither silly nor sentimental, far from foolish or corny, these stories hook both grown ups and children with their timeless charm and warm good-heartedness. If you haven’t had a chance to make valentines for those you love, these stories will spark your creativity -- and you’re on the way to making your own wonderful cards to tell others how you care. Find a child you love, and start today!!

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch  
by Eileen Spinelli
Illustrated by Paul Yalowitz. 
            Mr. Hatch lives by himself, eats alone, and has a drab life. But one Valentine’s Day, Postman Goober delivers a package wrapped in brown paper to Mr. Hatch’s porch. Inside is a huge, red, heart-shaped box filled with candy. A little card inside says, “Somebody loves you.”
            Mr. Hatch wonders who has sent this valentine. And then he realizes, he has a secret admirer! This package changes his whole life, beginning with laughing, dancing and clapping his hands.
 He takes a walk, wearing a fresh shirt, a yellow tie with blue polka dots, and even some aftershave. His smile and greeting surprise his neighbors when he passes them on the sidewalk. He shares chocolates from the heart box at work during lunchtime instead of eating alone.
            When he stops for his usual newspaper, he notices Mr. Smith doesn’t look well. Mr. Hatch offers to watch the newsstand while its owner goes to the doctor. Later, when he makes his usual stop at the grocery store, he notices Mr. Todd looks worried. Mr. Hatch offers to look for and finds and brings home daughter Melanie who is late from school.
            Finally, instead of reading the newspaper, Mr. Hatch bakes brownies, makes lemonade and has a picnic with neighbor children and their parents in his backyard. He even plays harmonica and everyone dances.
 Several weeks later however, Mr. Goober reports to Mr. Hatch that he delivered the candy box to the wrong address. Mr. Hatch realizes that there was no secret admirer.
            The parties stop. Mr. Hatch returns to eating alone. Everyone whispers, “What is wrong with Mr. Hatch?”
 The colored pencil illustrations begin with sepia tones, in perfect agreement with Mr. Hatch’s lonely quiet life. But after the heart shaped candy box arrives, colors explosively light up the pages and his life.
When Postman Goober comes to explain his mistake, and remove the empty candy box however, all color drains from the pages. Grey, tan and brown tones return to reflect Mr. Hatch’s sadness. “Nobody loved me after all,” he sighs returning to his predictable life, eating alone at lunch once again. 
The happy conclusion to this charmer will delight both children and the adults who share this lovely story that confirms what is most important in all our lives, who you love, and who loves you.

Simon and Schuster, $17.99 (hardcover) $7.99 (paperback)
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 2  

One Zillion Valentines  
by Frank Modell
            Friends Milton and Marvin decide, “Valentines aren’t just for girls.” They are for everyone. The two agree to make their own, since they’re short on cash.
They slip the finished valentines under people’s doors throughout the neighborhood, instead of mailing them. People are delighted.
            When the boys realize there are lots left over (having made “zillions”), they sell their handmade valentines, charging five cents each. This gives others a chance to have the joy of giving.
            Milton thinks they won’t get a valentine from anyone. But Marvin disagrees. With the money they earned from selling the extra valentines they buy a box of chocolates to share.
            Simple watercolor illustrations in a cartoon-like style keep the straightforward text and readers’ attention focused on what the boys do. A double page spread without text and only a sign saying, “Valentines Handmade 5 cents,” shows the two young salesmen with their Valentines surrounded by an interested coat- and hat-clad crowd. Later, a similar text-free double page spread reveals the two racing down the street, money in hand, toward a candy and card store, with bright red valentines visible in the window.
            This delightful story is both evidence of the boys’ creativity and expression of their friendship; a great choice to share with even the youngest of children.

Lerner, $6.95 (paperback)
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3

A String of Hearts by Laura Malone Elliott
Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
            When Sam’s teacher, Mrs. Wright advises the class to make a valentine for everyone, Sam knows he’s in trouble. The valentine he needs to make for his crush, Tiffany, will have to be super special. He’s in luck when his neighbor, Mary Ann, offers to help him. To the reader, however, it appears that Mary Ann wishes Sam were making a valentine for her, instead of Tiffany.
They spend the afternoon together, creating valentines. Meanwhile, the only thing Sam knows about popular Tiffany is her favorite color. Nevertheless, the valentine he makes for her is beautifully decorated, with purple stickers.
The next day doesn’t turn out quite the way Sam hopes for with Tiffany. But, unexpectedly he discovers a valentine from Mary Ann. It opens up into a string of hearts, each one with a different reason why she likes him. Sam is clearly pleased, and can think of lots of things to say about Mary Ann. He hurries home to make her valentine special.
Author Elliott has crafted an engaging story with heartwarming characters. Munsinger’s cheerful watercolor illustrations show an endearing variety of animals. A perfect interaction between expressive faces and body language captures the emotions established by the winsome text. Included at the end is an author’s note about Valentine’s Day and it’s history.

HarperCollins, $16.99
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 2


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