New author Sandra Horning didn't have to search far to find the inspiration for The Giant Hug, her first children's book. She grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, where her father spent many years working for the city post office. It's easy to imagine that Horning learned a lot from her postman dad, because her delightful book perfectly captures a child's fascination with how the post office actually works.

The tale begins when Owen's mom asks him what he'd like to send his grandmother for her birthday. Owen doesn't hesitate one bit. A GIANT hug, the young pig declares, spreading his arms wide.

Drawing a picture of a hug won't do. So Owen and his mom head to the post office, where Owen tells Mr. Nevin that he wants to send his grandmother a real hug for her birthday. Well, we don't normally send hugs, Mr. Nevin replies, but I suppose we could give it a try. Little Owen opens his arms wide and gives Mr. Nevin a giant hug, along with a request to make it just as giant when Mr. Nevin passes it on. As the story continues, Owen's hug gets passed on by animals who help speed the mail along the way, from goat to rabbit to porcupine and even to a bear named Captain Johnson, pilot of the mail airplane. At last the final delivery is in the arms of Shelly, the duck, who opens her arms wide and gives Granny a giant hug. But, wait. The story's not quite over yet. For the best part of getting a special package in the mail is, of course, sending back a reply. Young readers will be sure to giggle at Granny's response. The Giant Hug is graced by warm, humorous illustrations by Russian-born artist Valeri Gorbachev. This child-friendly book would make a great special delivery present for grandchildren and grandparents alike.

Deborah Hopkinson's most recent book, Apples to Oregon, was named to the New York Public Library's 2004 list of 100 books for reading and sharing.

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