February 17, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Great Books: Sweet Treats for Valentine’s Day

Warm up a brisk winter day by showcasing satisfying picture books that abound with sweet valentine wishes, affable hugs and kisses, and the heartfelt affection shared by family and friends.

Click, Clack, Moo I Love You! by Doreen Cronin. illus. by Betsy Lewin. Atheneum. 2017. Tr $17.99 ISBN 9781481444965.
PreS-Gr 1–It’s Valentine’s Day at the farm, and Little Duck is busy getting ready for the big dance—decorating, cutting out hearts, and painting glitter on pretty much anything she can find. The party is roaring success until an uninvited (and potentially predatory) guest arrives, but the kindhearted hostess saves the day by making the little fox feel welcome, and everyone enjoys the soiree until the cows come home (literally…they were attending a bovine ball). Cronin’s lighthearted narrative, Lewin’s winsome (and sparkly) cartoon artwork, and a cast of kid-favorite characters make this delightful offering a first choice for storytime.

Elvis Presley’s Love Me Tender. by Elvis Presley. illus. by Stephanie Graegin. Dial. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780735231221.
Toddler-PreS–Whether sung softly or read aloud, Presley’s well-known ballad makes a fitting tribute to the affection shared by children and the adults who love them. Graegin’s lovely pencil-and-watercolor paintings follow four diverse families as they admire their newborns in the hospital nursery, spend time patiently caretaking and playing with their little ones, and celebrate new experiences and important firsts. Time passes, of course, and the action culminates with the tots—now a bit older—joining together for opening day at Graceland Preschool. A fine choice for family sharing, especially for those looking to revisit days gone by or welcome a new addition.

Groundhug Day. by Anne Marie Pace. illus. by Christopher Denise. Disney/Hyperion. 2017. Tr $17. 99. ISBN 9781484753569.
PreS-Gr 2–It’s two weeks until Valentine’s Day, and Moose is planning a grand party. He wants all of his friends to attend, but if Groundhog sees his shadow tomorrow, he’ll go back into his hole until March. Though Moose, Squirrel, Bunny, and Porcupine tend to bicker, their hearts are in the right place as they try to understand and accommodate their burrowing pal’s concerns, and, eventually, everyone learns about the importance of compromise. Funny plot twists and turns, well-drawn animal characters, and personality-packed artwork add up to an entertaining, holiday-spanning read-aloud.

Love. by Matt de la Peña. illus. by Loren Long. Putnam. Jan. 2018. Tr $17.99 ISBN 9781524740917; ebook $10.99. ISBN 9781524740924.
Gr 2-5–Love is many things, and this book’s lyrical prose and expressive mixed-media artwork showcase an array of moments and situations that evoke this powerful feeling. Love is found in the gentle sound of parents’ voices at bedtime, the laughter of children running through sprinklers in “a crowded concrete park,” or the “crease” of a grandfather’s face as he fishes with his grandson. It’s also found in the reassuring words of neighbor during a frightening fire, in the arms of an adult who provides comfort after a bad dream, or in a “slice of burned toast” offered by a caretaking older sibling. Depicting diverse characters and locales, de la Peña and Long’s affecting double-page spreads masterfully touch upon a wide spectrum of human experiences, inviting discussion and ultimately showing children that love provides them with the strength, empathy, and joy needed to move forward into the world.

Love, Mama. by Jeanette Bradley. illus. by author. Roaring Brook. Jan. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781626729490.
PreS-K–When his mama goes on a trip, a young penguin misses her deeply. Kipling tries to soothe his longing for her with pretend play, but “Pillow Mama wouldn’t read. Picture Mama wouldn’t laugh…And Snow Mama was too cold to cuddle.” Then a box arrives in the mail, containing small gifts and a note from Mama reminding Kipling that her love for him knows no bounds. Comforted, he returns the gesture in kind, and it’s not long before the two are reunited. Enchanting illustrations and understated text depict the critter’s adventures and the heartfelt emotions of this parent-child pair, making this poignant tale a reassuring choice for any youngster dealing with separation from a loved one.

No Hugs for Porcupine. by Zoe Waring. Running Pr. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780762462254.
Toddler-PreS–All of the forest animals love to hug each other good night, but poor Porcupine is simply too prickly to be embraced, which makes him feel left out and grumpy. “I don’t need a hug,” he exclaims, but deep down, he “craved a cuddle, needed a nuzzle, and searched for a snuggle.” Going off to sulk, Porcupine meets Armadillo, who introduces an alternative means of expressing affection: a prickle-free kiss on the nose (“Mwah!”). It makes Porcupine feel content and he can’t wait to show it to the others, but will they give him a chance? Illustrated with endearing earth-toned artwork, this gentle story of friendship and feelings glows with genuine emotion.

This Is Not a Valentine. by Carter Higgins. illus. by Lucy Ruth Cummins. Chronicle. 2017. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781452153742.
K-Gr 2–When a smiling girl gives a boy a valentine, he reciprocates not with a fancy card, but with a stream of small, thoughtful gifts chosen especially for her. “This is not a valentine,” the first-person refrain explains, but a bouquet of dandelions (with most of the wishes already blown off), a plastic ring from a gumball machine (with a color that “matches your best shoelaces”), his very own cape (“red is pretty good for superheroes,/and you are my favorite one”), or his lucky rock (to help win a game of hopscotch). The lyrical text and charming mixed-media artwork spotlight each tiny treasure as friendship blossoms and readers are reminded that affection can be expressed in simple—and non-shimmery—ways.

The Unexpected Love Story of Alfred Fiddleduckling. by Timothy Basel Ering. illus. by author. Candlewick. 2017. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763664329.
K-Gr 2–When Captain Alfred is caught in a storm, everything on his boat is hurled into the churning sea, including his loyal dog, a flock of ducks for his farm, and a special gift for his wife—a duck egg carefully nestled inside his fiddle case. Everything falls quiet in the aftermath, as fog covers the ocean. Floating in the broken violin case, the egg cracks and the duckling hatches. Frightened and alone, he spots a mysterious object, swims over to it, and embraces it “with all of his heart.” The fiddle makes “the most beautiful sound,” and the music not only comforts and buoys little Alfred until he reaches land, but also helps the others lost in the tempest find their way home. Stunning acrylic paintings blend drama and whimsy to convey this adventure’s soaring emotions, depict the adorable feathered protagonist, and capture the magic of music and the power of love.

Valensteins. by Ethan Long. illus. by author. Bloomsbury. 2017. Tr $16.99 ISBN 9781619634336; ebook $9.99 ISBN 9781619634350.
K-Gr 2–It’s a dark, cold night—perfect for scaring—and the monster members of the Fright Club (Bloomsbury, 2015) are hard at work practicing their technique, all but Fran K. Stein, who sits quietly at a table crafting something from pink paper, scissors, and glue. Could it be a mask with vampire fangs? A big pink nose? Or, held upside down, a paper butt? No, it’s a valentine, and for this group of kidlike creatures, the idea of two people feeling “all mushy mushy about each other” is downright terrifying. However, Fran knows better, and heads outside to present his paper heart and genuine affection to a new friend. This picture book’s comically creepy artwork, laugh-out-loud dialogue, and mix of exaggerated silliness and sincerity make for a read-aloud treat.

Don’t forget some of the titles from Joy Fleishhacker’s “Love Is In the Air.” Chances are they are already on your shelves.

Joy Fleishhacker About Joy Fleishhacker

Joy Fleishhacker is a librarian, former SLJ staffer, and freelance editor and writer who works at the Pikes Peak Library District in southern Colorado.

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