You may have seen the March 22, 2021, article in The New York Times titled "Postal Service Struggles to Speed Up Delivery, Compounding Its Troubles." Few of us, at least in the United States, have gone through the COVID-19 pandemic without at least one distressingly delayed or utterly lost piece of mail. When that mail happens to be a package, the loss feels even greater.
For this reason alone, Richard Ho's The Lost Package would have caught our eye. But more than simply a story of a package that flew out of the back of a mail-delivery truck, it is a tale of caring and empathy. From the moment a girl in New York City thoughtfully protects a gift with bubble wrap, seals it up, and addresses the package by hand, it receives the touch of one caring person after another. It's weighed, stamped, labeled, and loaded into the truck; each step involves human beings trying to help other human beings.
Jessica Lanan's watercolors support the story so well that even a child who doesn't read yet could flip through the pages and understand the package's journey. When the girl is drawing personal touches on her package's wrapping, we see the Empire State Building out her window and a poster of the Golden Gate Bridge on her wall, giving us a wordless glimpse of the trajectory ahead. Her cat watches curiously from beside a globe that suggests the worldwide sending and receiving which form the story's backdrop. And Lanan provides funny touches, too, like a lamp in the shape of an upright bunny, with the shade hiding its head.
Lanan allows us to feel the distress of the package after its flight off the truck, showing us how people and buses pass it by while it sits in a curbside puddle. But then along comes more caring, in the form of an inquisitive dog who pulls his boy over to see it. When the boy and his mother notice the Golden Gate Bridge on the wrapper, a miracle occurs. We won't give it away, but we will say that miracles often take the form of people who go way out of their way to help, leading to special new friendships which bless everyone involved.
The list of caring people does not stop with the characters in The Lost Package, meant for children ages 3 - 6 years old. Lanan notes at the end that she is indebted "to the USPS and Smithsonian National Postal Museum for the exhibit Systems at Work, which helped me understand the postal sorting machines." And author Richard Ho startlingly states that if it wasn't for the United States Postal Service, he might not be here today! As a young immigrant, his father's landing of a postal clerk job with benefits and stability allowed Ho's parents to start a family. This book is a happy continuation of that good fortune.