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Blast off! Space stamp creator sends PS 261 kids into orbit

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Noted commercial illustrator Donato Giancola was in a class by himself on Dec. 5 when he visited Boerum Hill’s PS 261 to parade his latest micro-masterpieces — a pair of first class “forever” US postage stamps celebrating 50 years of American space exploration.

The multiple Hugo Award-winning artist, who lives down the block from the school where his eldest daughter attended kindergarten, received the students’ stamp of approval for the striking images depicting astronaut Alan Shepard’s historic 1961 space flight, and NASA’s unmanned Messenger mission to Mercury.

Giancola, invited to the school by stamp-collecting teacher Melissa Farran, brought along supersized versions of his 44-cent seals, mounted on placards for easy viewing, while he fielded a constellation of questions from curious second graders.

But it was Giancola who was in for an astronomical surprise when the students showed off their own venture into the unknown: a school post office they’re making, complete with homemade stamps featuring cool pictures of flowers and little houses.

The students’ creativity sent Giancola into orbit.

“The kids made each one of those stamps separately — and they only cost five cents!” said the illustrator, whose work has graced the pages of National Geographic and the covers of books such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” — but who didn’t mind being eclipsed by the next generation of artists.

In fact, their efforts to ditch the digital age for time-tested snail-mail sent him over the moon.

“I asked the children how many of them preferred to receive real mail as opposed to e-mails, and about three-quarters of them put their hands up!” he shared. “It’s the physical element of being able to touch something tangible.”

Giancola said he will be among the first customers when the pint-sized post office opens later this month.

“I’m going to stop by to mail a letter,” he said. “And I’ll be using one of their stamps instead of my own!”

Reach reporter Shavana Abruzzo at or by calling (718) 260-2529.

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