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The Giant Hug. Written by Sandra Horning, illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev.
Here’s what I love about this one.
1. It features a kid, Owen, well a pig who’s a kid, who wants to send a real, live hug to his grandma.
2. It takes us behind the scenes of the U.S. Postal Service giving a look into how mail travels from here to there, step by step.
Every character who handles the hug-letter in its journey complies with Owen’s wish, passing the boy’s hug from postal worker to postal worker until it finally makes its way to Granny Lewis. (One hug between a bird and a fox results in a date for dancing. Everybody wins!)
“Granny grinned and said, ‘That’s the most wonderful piece of mail I have ever received. You send that grandson of mine a big kiss.”
I can imagine a sequel called The Giant Kiss, but that might be weird.
Sandra Horning‘s father worked for the post office. He told stories of “boxes of chicks, which chirped and chirped while they wait[ed] to be picked up.” One time, there was a beehive in a package and wouldn’t you know it, some bees got out. Horning’s father’s name is Nevin, so of course the first post office worker in the book is Mr. Nevin, after him. He’s the character who agrees to send the hug, however unorthodox the correspondence. Consequently he gets a pretty nice cuddle from Owen to start the process.
As for the author’s most wonderful piece of mail ever?
“…the letter from Knopf saying they were interested in my story. I stood in the foyer of my apartment, read the letter and cried. My toddler son (who is Owen, but we spell it Eoin, an Irish spelling) was so concerned, I had to explain that I was crying happy tears.”
So what’s the most wonderful piece of mail that’s ever arrived for you?
Tell us in the comments!
For me, it’s probably the chicken feathers my friend Anna sent . They were from an egg-laying hen on her little farm, a hen she named after me (Dd)! (Anna, like Sandra’s dad, is no stranger to getting live chicks at the post office. She’s also no stranger to sending lovely mail.)
Real, live snail mail is pretty special. The artist Kiera Coffee makes the special-est kind:
“The post office is, as far as I know, obligated to deliver anything innocuous and properly stamped to its destination, and I have mailed numerous unwrapped objects to friends and family over the years: a small thrift-store doll with a stamp glued to its skirt; a vinyl record with a letter penned in white ink; and single rocks, sticks, and pieces of bark. I’ve sent painted, collaged, drawn, and sewn letters, and translucent prescription bottles holding curled messages inside.”
–Kiera Coffee in Martha Stewart Crafts
Here are ideas to inspire your own postal escapades:
One mail subscription service I personally covet is OliveBox. It’s for lovers of paper and designy desk things. You know who you are.
Quarterly Co sends a box of wonderful things every quarter to you or whoever you gift it to. You get to pick which contributor to give or get stuff from. This pictured mailing is from Poketo, a store here in Los Angeles I like a whole lot.
And if you’re strapped for time (or have terrible handwriting as I do), Black Sheep Postal Service will send a cool postcard for you. That way somebody hand wrote it!
Or TangBaby will whip up and send a similar slice for you.
Over and out. I’m off to send a hug or hug substitute.