a list of…five friendly, loving stories for Valentine’s Day

Love is…adapted from the Bible and illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin

Love is patient.  Love is kind.
Love is not envious or boastful.
Love is not arrogant or rude.
Love does not insist on its own way.
Love is not irritable or resentful.
Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends…

These familiar words, written by the apostle Paul, are known throughout the world.   The love he describes is so beautiful, so long-suffering, so self-sacrificing, and so longed for in this broken world.

Wendy Anderson Halperin has sumptuously illustrated these verses from I Corinthians 13, in a glad, thoughtful, creative manner.  Her illustrations, as always, are enchanting, light-handed, detailed.  Here, she allows herself numerous approaches to each of the phrases describing love.  On two facing pages, she illustrates the antithesis of “love is patient; love is kind” and the fulfillment.  Cranky kids pushing in line, or taking the time for friendly conversation while waiting.  A testy older brother refusing to help a smaller sibling, or the two of them smiling during a classic bike-riding lesson.  Small things:  a faithful dog waiting for the school bus.  A rainbow after the rain. The long patience of watching a seedling grow into a spreading oak throughout a lifetime.  These and more ideas are clustered in cameos across the two-page spread.  Some ideas are carried through from page to page throughout the book.

This is a lovely book which can be perused at length, thought and wondered over, again and again.  The subject matter, the wise reflection by Halperin, and her outstanding artwork, make it a book for tinies-through-grandparents. Highly recommended.

A Visitor for Bear, story by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

Large, brown, portly Bear leads a positively quiet, very in-control life in his tidy home to which visitors are definitely not allowed.

So, when small, gray, bright-eyed Mouse shows up on his doorstep, Bear firmly points out his No Visitors policy, and believes that is that.

But.  That is definitely not the last Bear has seen of mouse.  Mouse pops up in the cupboard, the bread drawer, the fridge.  He wants a spot of tea, a bit of cheese, a crackling fire.

It’s outrageous!  Intolerable!  Insufferable!  Bear keeps showing Mouse firmly out the door, barricading Mouse out, telling him to skedaddle in larger and larger Bear volume, but that little pest just keeps popping up.  It is so distressing, Bear is finally reduced to a quivering, blubbering, weeping mess.  So, they make a deal.  One little bit of cheese and tea in front of the fire, and then mouse will leave.

The funniest thing happens, though.  As Bear and Mouse relax companionably in front of the fire, sipping, nibbling, chatting…Bear discovers that having a friend is really not so bad.  In fact, Bear revises his No Visitors policy, and he and Mouse settle in to enjoy the delights of tea and company together.

Fabulous book!  I love the characters Becker has created, her scrumptious vocabulary, comic timing, humorous surprises, and sweet plot.  Denton’s illustrations are spot-on.  Homey watercolors, terrific expressive characters, humor and pathos…This is a brilliant combination of talent.  Several other Bear and Mouse books are available which are also winners.  Superb!

George and Martha, written and illustrated by James Marshall

Subtitled “Five Stories about Two Great Friends,” this first of the George and Martha books launches the whole delightful series off with plenty of snickers as well as sweet smiles.

George and Martha are hippos.  They are great friends.  But they do have their differences.  About split pea soup, for example.  And when it is not okay to peer in the window.  But when the chips are down, these are friends who know how to encourage one another, and tell one another the truth. 

James Marshall is a genius at the preposterous, and George and Martha are clearly ridiculous.  Massive lumps of hippo with teeny-weeny eyes, bustling about in skirts and bowler hats are plainly ridiculous!  Yet along with the silly, he embeds warmth and affection in a very appealing way.  These five extraordinarily short stories are so disarmingly addictive, you will read them again and again and again without any loss of charm.   Then you will reach for more George and Martha.  As well you should!

Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and Their New Friend, story and pictures by Maj Lindman

It’s the Swedish triplets again!

This time, it’s winter and the girls are dressed in fantastic retro snowsuits.  Bright red, with little pointy caps!    At any rate, the three girls are out to make the biggest snowball ever, which ends up rolling down a hill and coming to rest right on the front sidewalk of a lonely old man’s house.  At which point the girls’ mother calls them to lunch, and there it sits.

After lunch and a brief scolding by Mother, they scurry to set things right, purchasing jumbo pink and white lollipops for their lonely neighbor en route.  When they arrive, he has moved the snow mess himself and is none too pleased with them.  But…the lollipops and the kindness intended, win him over, and soon the old man and the three girls forge a sweet friendship.

For a sweet dose of old-fashioned, sentimental goodness, trust Flicka Ricka and Dicka.  This is the world of the 1940s, with Mother always dressed to the nines, old-time candy counters, and wooden toboggans with steering wheels.  But neighborliness and intergenerational friendships ought never to go out of style, and for that reason, these are still dandy little books to read with your kids. 

Frog and Toad are Friends, written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel

When I think of classic children’s lit friendships, Frog and Toad are among the first pair to pop into mind.  Anxious Toad and Steady Frog are such good buddies despite their tremendously different personalities, and are surely loved by all who meet them.  Five chapters and episodes are included in each of their books.

In this book, the five stories are:  Spring, in which Frog has his work cut out coaxing Toad out of bed; The Story, in which Toad tries desperately to think up a story to tell his sick-in-bed friend Frog; A Lost Button, about an exasperating search for Toad’s missing button; A Swim, one of my favorite Frog and Toad episodes,  with silly Toad in an embarrassing striped swimsuit; and The Letter, a dear story about a cheery letter and some literal snail mail.

Funny, dear stories about these two pals, illustrated perfectly with Lobel’s Caldecott-Honor artwork in earthy tones; easy-reading material for those well beyond “a cat had ham” but not yet ready for a first chapter book.  Or read them aloud.  I still love ’em!

Here are the links to these books on Amazon:

Love Is . . .
A Visitor for Bear (Bear and Mouse)
George and Martha
George and Martha
Frog and Toad Are Friends (I Can Read Book 2)

Happy Valentine’s Day!