Filled with heartfelt hugs, satisfying smooches, and unbounded affection, these appealing picture books are perfect for Valentine’s Day, or any day of the year.
Here Comes Valentine Cat. by Deborah Underwood. illus. by Claudia Rueda. Dial. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780525429159; ebook $10.99. 9780399186134.
PreS-Gr 2–In this fun series entry, cranky Cat responds to questions posed by an off-stage narrator, clearly conveying his utter lack of enthusiasm for Valentine’s Day via body language, expressive facial features, and hand-held signs. He particularly does not want to make a card (at least a nice card) for the dog who has just moved into the neighborhood and has been chucking bones and balls over the fence ever since. But appearances and motivations can be deceiving, and Cat eventually discovers that Dog just might not be the enemy he presumed. Droll ink-and-color-pencil illustrations and a childlike perspective keep readers engaged and entertained.
Celebrate Valentine’s Day with Love, Cards, and Candy. by Carolyn Otto. “Holidays around the World” series. National Geographic. 2017. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781426327476.
K-Gr 4–This informational book originally published in 2008 introduces the history of Valentine’s Day, international traditions and foods associated with the holiday, and the many ways love is celebrated across the globe. Eye-catching photos of people from diverse countries and cultures provide snapshots of observances. For example, a woman in the Philippines holds up a homemade valentine, kids and seniors enjoy a holiday sock hop in Iowa, a couple takes their wedding vows while upside down on a roller coaster at Florida’s Busch Garden, and a Kenyan business owner prepares roses to sell in her shop.
I Heart You. by Meg Fleming. illus. by Sarah Jane Wright. Beach Lane. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442488953; ebook $10.99. ISBN 9781442488878.
Toddler-PreS–Succinct rhyming couplets and summer-hued illustrations articulately affirm the love that parents—both animal and human—feel for their children. On the opening spread, a rabbit watches its little one return with a just-snatched-from-the garden-carrot in its mouth (“I see you./I miss you”), while a page turn shows the two cuddled together in their underground den (“I hug you./I kiss you”). Nearby, a fox pair frolics in the woods (“I hide you./I tease you./I find you./I squeeze you”), a bear helps its cub reach a high-on-the-branch apple, and so on, until a mother and daughter in the backyard of a nearby house cuddle together on a swing to watch the sunset. Simply irresistible.
Kiss It Better. by Smriti Prasadam-Halls. illus. by Sarah Massini. Bloomsbury. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781681191492; BD $9.99. ISBN 9781681194264; ebook $6.99. ISBN 9781408845615.
PreS-K–This honeyed ode to the potent powers and many purposes of kisses follows an enchantingly depicted bear family through the ups and downs of everyday life. Readily available and generously bestowed from head to toe, kisses not only express affection and sooth booboos but “can actually speak…Listen the next time one lands you your cheek.” There are “I’m sorry” kisses to make amends, “be-brave” kisses perfect for the first day of school, and even “go-to-sleep” kisses that make “MONSTERS, SHOO!” Massini’s mixed-media artwork is filled with sherbet hues, dynamic motion, and pink hearts that flutter across the pages just like the amiably described emotions.
Love Is. by Diane Adams. illus. by Claire Keane. Chronicle. 2017. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781452139975.
PreS-Gr 2–After a little duckling wanders away from a pond in a city park, a girl finds it and takes it home to raise. She spends much time taking care of (midnight feedings, messy bath times, and lots of cuddles), playing with (chase and hide-and-seek), and nurturing her cherished charge before realizing that it’s time for the now-grown duck to stretch its wings and return to nature. Filled with genuine affection, the sweet rhyming verses and lovely loose-lined artwork in muted tones tenderly convey the message that love means both holding tight and letting go.
0Love Matters Most. by Mij Kelly. illus. by Gerry Turley. Little, Brown. 2016. R $17.99. ISBN 9780316543118; ebook $9.99. ISBN 9780316543101.
PreS-Gr 2–A polar bear ventures out of her warm cave and into a storm-swept night, seeking something she has lost. Rhyming verses muse about her purpose—is she looking for “ruby-red berries” spread across the snow-frosted landscape? The “forest’s true magic dancing in light” (the shimmering northern lights)? Salmon “leaping from water so clear,” or the breathless moment “a snowflake melts to a tear”? Footprints soon reveal that she is not searching for any of these “treasures and fabulous sights,” but for her cub, “who was lost in the night.” Now safe and cuddled close, it’s clear to the little one—and young listeners— “that love matters most.” Lyrical text and gorgeous ice-hued artwork depict wilderness wonders and convey a resounding affirmation of parental love.
Love You Too. by Alastair Heim. illus. by Alisa Coburn. Little Bee. 2016. $16.99. ISBN 9781499801743.
PreS-Gr 1–Written call-and-response style, this upbeat tale emphasizes the exuberant fondness shared by a father and daughter, delightfully depicted as pigs, throughout a satisfying day spent together. “When I say ‘I love,’ you say ‘you.’/When I say ‘love you,’ you say ‘too.’” Splashed with neon green, bright pink, and mustard gold, the action-packed artwork shows the pair engaged in fun activities including a pancake feast, bicycle race, tire-swing ride, picnic, and bedtime. The illustrations repeat the rhyming verses in dialogue balloons, nicely reiterating the text. Packed with whimsical details and buoyant affection, this charmer is a share-together treat.
Plenty of Love to Go Around. by Emma Chichester Clark. illus. by author. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399546662.
PreS-Gr 2–The scruffy black pooch from Love Is My Favorite Thing (2015) returns in another adventure. Plum revels in her role as “Special One,” and is a bit put out when her best friends, the kids next door, bring home a cat. Suddenly, Binky is following Plum everywhere, continually trying to make friends (Plum just isn’t interested), and getting all of the attention. It takes a few missteps and lots of reassurance for Plum to discover that there’s room in her humans’ hearts—and even her own—for a new addition. Simple text, bright-hued artwork, and an always-expressive protagonist illuminate the boundless capacity of family affection.
Sloppy Wants a Hug. by Sean Julian. illus. by author. NorthSouth. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-0-7358-4273-1.
PreS-Gr 2–Sloppy, an endearing moss-green dragon, repeatedly asks Dewdrop the fairy for a hug, but she refuses to comply. “You know why not,” she says. Finally, after watching the scaly creature gently return a fallen baby bird to its nest, Dewdrop relents, and the two share a heartfelt embrace…until the fairy is reminded why she said no in the first place (a page turn reveals that Sloppy has earned his name for what he does best…bestowing “great big sloppy” licks). Vibrant artwork and a lighthearted telling will leave readers smiling—and ready to give hugs.
That’s Me Loving You. by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. illus. by Teagan White. Random House. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781101932384; ebook $10.99. ISBN 9781101932407.
PreS-Gr 1–Gentle verses and soft-edged, earth-toned artwork employ evocative examples from nature to remind youngsters that their adult loved ones are always close to their hearts, whether they are physically near or far away. “That shimmering star?/That’s me winking at you. That drifting cloud?/That’s me thinking of you.” Expressive and often playful, the paired lines are accompanied by illustrations of diverse children enjoying the outdoors, whether gazing at the ocean (“That’s me waving at you”), swatting a persistent mosquito (“That’s me bugging you”), or dozing beneath a rainbow (“That’s me dreaming of you”). This sweetly reassuring tale eases separation anxiety and nurtures emotional independence.
When an Elephant Falls in Love. by Davide Cali. illus. by Alice Lotti. Chronicle. 2016. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781452147277.
PreS-Gr 2–This book’s block-shaped pachyderm protagonist exhibits classic love-struck symptoms, hiding when he sees his beloved (unsuccessfully, behind a very narrow tree), taking baths every day (his bulky body barely fitting in the footed tub), penning letters that will never be sent (they end up crumpled in the trash can), gazing at a cloud-filled sky (endlessly), leaving flowers at his beloved’s door (and then running away)—until finally, the two come face to face…and, “It’s love!” (their entwined trunks hold flowers and form double hearts). Wry text is paired with mixed-media artwork to tell a love story simultaneously silly and sincere.
XO, Ox: A Love Story. by Adam Rex. illus. by Scott Campbell. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626722880.
K-Gr 4–Nonsense Ox, dressed in neat pin-striped suspender pants and white shirt with rolled-up sleeves, is smitten with the beguiling and elegant Gazelle, and pens a heartfelt missive expressing his earnest admiration. Reclining on a chaise lounge in her 1930s-movie-starlet-style boudoir, self-obsessed Gazelle counters with an impersonal form letter and hastily autographed photo. Ox, however, persists, and his unflagging good nature and disarmingly sweet sincerity just might win over the reluctant Gazelle. Told through delightfully wry correspondence and exquisite watercolors in faded hues, this clever and comical un-love story will generate smiles and lift readers’ hearts.