After last Friday’s school shooting, many people have wanted to show their support and do something for the children in Newtown, Conn. That afternoon the New England Independent Booksellers Association, which has member stores in towns surrounding Newtown, put together a list of recommended books, as did library staffers like Bina Williams, children’s librarian at the Bridgeport Public Library.
Kim Pescatelli, a Connecticut mother and knitter, knew that many schools use Audrey Penn’s The Kissing Hand (Tanglewood Books) in kindergarten to help ease children’s anxiety about being separated from their family during the school day Her idea: to give a copy of the book along with a pair of Kissing Hand mittens with hearts on the palm to children in Newtown. “After talking with Audrey,” says Tanglewood publisher Peggy Tierney, “we decided to donate a book for every elementary school kid in Newtown.” In addition to those 1,600 books, Tierney and Penn are donating 80 copies of another Kissing Hand book specifically about death, Chester and the Acorn Full of Memories, one per classroom. A teacher in Mississippi is organizing a drive to create Kissing Hand pillows– so after kids return to school they’ll each get a book, mittens, and a pillow with hearts. At Pescatelli’s request the author has agreed to come to Newtown to help give them out.
Other publishing professionals have been circulating an e-mail that suggests preserving the memories of the children who died by encouraging family, friends, and publishers to donate books in their names. “Rather than sending a wreath or a teddy bear, it would be something positive,” the e-mail says. “It doesn’t have to go to the Newtown library. Wouldn’t it be nice if Jack Pinto, who loved sports, had his name in sports books all over the country. One child loved ballet. Or the book could be sent in the name of all the children of Sandy Hook.” The e-mail also recommends choosing Steven Kellogg titles, since he is a former Newtown resident.
Bookstores, too, have pitched in. Bank Square Books in Mystic, Conn., is one of the drop-off points for Operation Snuggle, which is providing teddy bears and stuffed animals to the kids in Newtown. And Aaron’s Books in Lititz, Pa., is supporting the effort and encouraging its customers to buy books and teddy bears for a Connecticut care package for families in the stricken town.