Sweet Reads For Valentine's Day

Many call Valentine’s Day a “Hallmark Holiday” and rightly so. But rather than look at the “holiday” as one day to express your love, you might want to use Valentine’s Day as a time to renew your commitment to creating special times and traditions with your kids. Reading aloud is critical for kids’ developmental growth and it is one of the best ways to spend time together. What says “I love you” more than togetherness? There is no shortage of Valentine’s Day-themed books in stores and libraries. However, there are many wonderful books not tied to February 14th that focus on the love between a child and his or her parents. Here are some great budget-friendly suggestions for either route you choose. Have a happy Valentine’s Day ... all year long!

New & Noteworthy

  • A String of Hearts
    By Laura Malone Elliott, Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger; Katherine Tegen Books, $16.99, ages 4-7

    Sam, a bear cub, has a crush on Tiffany, a very popular kitten. He’s having a hard time making the perfect valentine for her, and gets some help from their classmate Mary Ann, an awkward little squirrel, who has a secret crush on him. Mary Ann shows Sam many different ways to make a valentine. Unaware of Mary Ann’s feelings for him, Sam ends up making a beautiful card for Tiffany. However, the other students’ valentines were more fancy and some included gifts, so Tiffany barely noticed Sam’s card. A disappointed Sam reaches in his pocket and finds a very sincere valentine from Mary Ann, which inspires him to make her a small book about all of her special qualities. Needless to say, Mary Ann is very touched, and the next morning, the pair playfully walk to school together. This sweet story of friendship and “puppy love” is perfect for boys and girls in early elementary school. Plus, the author’s web site features links to ideas for homemade valentines.

  • Jon Scieszka’s Trucktown: Melvin’s Valentine
    By Jon Scieszka, Illustrated by Design Garage; Aladdin, $3.99, ages 4-6

    Why can’t trucks celebrate Valentine’s Day too? This ready-to-read book is a great way for rough-and-tumble boys to get into the spirit of the holiday. Melvin, the cement mixer, receives a valentine from a secret admirer. As he polls his truck friends about who may have been the sender, Rita, the small emergency vehicle, playfully beeps behind him hinting that it could be her. Melvin doesn’t notice her during his investigation ... until she pulls up alongside of him and reveals that she was the sender. Melvin is very pleased, and the two travel the roads of Trucktown in harmony. The simple text and popular characters of Trucktown make this a super gift for beginning readers. Since it’s a quick read with bright colors, toddlers should enjoy it as well.

  • My Penguin Osbert in Love
    By Elizabeth Cody Kimmel, Illustrated by H.B. “Buck” Lewis; Candlewick Press, $7.99-16.99, ages 4-9

    This Valentine’s Day fantasy is about a young boy named Joe and his pet penguin, Osbert. When Osbert is invited to the South Pole for an annual celebration of the southern lights, he coaxes Joe to fly him and his penguin friends in Joe’s helicopter halfway around the world. After landing in several tropical regions that clearly weren’t the South Pole, they arrive at the festival and witness the midwinter phenomenon. Osbert falls in love with a penguin named Aurora Australis (which is Latin for southern lights) and in a fun surprise, she flies home with Joe, Osbert and the rest of the penguins. This is a charming book for boys and girls at the younger end of the publisher’s recommended age range. A fun bonus is the inclusion of recipes for punch and “black-and-white” penguin cookies to have at your own midwinter celebration.

From the Bookshelf

  • Guess How Much I Love You
    By Sam McBratney, Illustrated by Anita Jeram; Candlewick Press, $7.99-16.99, ages 18 months & up

    For nearly 20 years, this adorable book has been as common in a baby’s room as a pack of diapers. Sam McBratney created a playful competition between who loves each other —more—the child or the parent. Naturally, the parent wins out, a sentiment parents will naturally appreciate. “I love you to the moon and back” is heard so often at day care and school drop-offs that it’s practically part of pop culture. The book’s soothing illustrations are reminiscent of Beatrix Potter watercolors, and have become iconic in their own right. The book is available in various formats and gift sets, it’s a no-fail gift for Valentine’s Day or any occasion.

  • Happy Valentine’s Day, Dolores
    Written/Illustrated by Barbara Samuels; Square Fish, $6.99-16.99, ages 4-8

    This hilarious book is for all sisters who quarrel—which is basically all sisters! Dolores and her older sister Faye usually get along just fine, except when Dolores gets into her things without asking. Dolores finds a cool, froggy Valentine’s Day necklace hidden in Faye’s drawers and tries it on. But when she hears Faye coming, Dolores can’t get it off fast enough. Dolores goes to great lengths to hide the necklace that’s around her neck and succeeds ... until she decides to show it off at school. Of course, she gets in trouble with her teacher and has to remove the necklace, which gives her the chance to sneak it back into Faye’s room. But then, she loses it! Once again, Dolores hatches a clever, but hysterically funny, plan to cover up her tracks. To tell the end of the story would spoil the fun, so I will leave it for all moms and daughters to enjoy it for themselves!

  • Too Many Valentines
    By Margaret McNamara, Illustrated by Mike Gordon; Aladdin Paperbacks, $3.99, ages 4-6

    The members of the first grade class of Robin Hill School, the school featured in a popular ready-to-read series, are excited about Valentine’s Day. But, Neil wants nothing to do with it and informs everyone that he does not want to receive any valentines. The teacher and students oblige and proceed to exchange cards. Naturally, Neil feels left out, especially when no one pays him any attention because they are all talking about their valentines. His teacher had a hunch he’d feel this way and mailed him one big valentine signed by the entire class, which cheered Neil right up. Another great read-aloud pick for both boys and girls!

  • Valentine Surprise
    By Corinne Demas, Illustrated by R.W. Alley; Walker & Company, $6.99, ages 3-6

    Young Lily wants to make the perfect valentine for her mommy. Starting a week ahead, she secretly begins cutting out a large heart. However, the first one is too pointy. The next day, she makes another heart, but it is too round. And so on, for the next seven days, but she never really makes the “perfect” heart. Running out of time, she tapes each of the hearts together and gives them to her mom, apologizing that it didn’t turn out “right.” Just like a loving parent, Lily’s mom sees it as perfect and is delighted that she now has a valentine for every day of the week. This is such a sweet book, especially for the child who loves making their own valentines and greeting cards.

  • You’re All My Favorites
    By Sam McBratney, Illustrated by Anita Jeram; Candlewick Press, $7.99-15.99, ages 2-5

    We probably read this book a hundred times in our house before realizing that it’s by the same author and illustrator as “Guess How Much I Love You.” That’s how great and unique it is. Going out on a limb, it’s better than its predecessor. Mother and father bear have three cubs, and each wonders which one is their parents’ favorite. Through sweet prose and charming illustrations, mother and father bear reassure their cubs that each is special in his own way and of course, all favorites. Like McBratney’s other title, this book is available in various formats and gift sets, and is a fabulous Valentine’s gift for a big brother or sister to be.

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