Posts Tagged ‘Valentine’s Day’

wolf-in-the-snow-cover-imageWolf in the Snow, by Matthew Cordell
published in 2017 by Feiwel and Friends

My top pick for Valentine’s Day might seem unusual at first glance, but believe me — this is a book about love! Love within a family — anchoring, steadfast — and sacrificial love for the stranger. It touched my heart deeply.

Cordell’s wordless story features a little girl living in a northerly home where wolves dwell and blizzards swirl. On her way home from school one day, snow begins falling so fast and furious that she becomes utterly enveloped in it. Lost.


She’s not the only one. One frowsy wolf pup gets separated from its pack. As the little girl plods her way along, she comes across it, shivering, scared, whimpering. From far across the snow-covered hills she hears the mournful howling of the pack.

What to do?

The safe thing, of course, is to apologize to the pup and keep on her homeward journey! She’s cold and forlorn herself. Fatigued from pushing through that deep snow. Night falls early. Wolves are toothy! It’s certainly much more sensible to worry about her own self rather than that scruffy pup.

But scooping him up in her arms, she sets off across the snowy wasteland. It’s quite a journey and Cordell’s masterful pacing and artwork sweep us right into it. Not only do we experience the physical exertion, but also a powerful range of emotions.


 I was stunned by all that is stuffed into this small tale — beauty, heroism, courage, kindness, gorgeous wolves, the warmth of home, and above all one little girl’s willingness to put another’s needs ahead of her own. Brilliant, for ages 3 and up.

thelinesonnanasface-cover-imageThe Lines on Nana’s Face, written and illustrated by Simona Ciraolo
published in 2016 by Flying Eye Books

This is truly one of the dearest books I’ve seen in a long time.

It’s Nana’s birthday and her granddaughter is excited to celebrate with her. She knows how much Nana loves to have her family all together. Yet this little girl has a niggling concern.

Sometimes it’s hard to read Nana’s face and know if she’s entirely, completely happy because of all the lines wrinkling across it.


Nana assures her that those lines don’t bother her a bit, because “it is in these lines that I keep all my memories!” Doubtful, her granddaughter quizzes her on each wrinkle. Which memory is tucked in that one, Nana? And in this one?

Nana easily relates the happy — and one sad — memories creased into her beautiful face. That includes one of the most precious memories of all.


Ciraolo’s palette of luscious pinks, sunshine yellow, warm biscuit browns, and glowing spring greens washes through this book like a glad smile. The rounded baby shapes of granddaughter and dignified angles of grandmother fit together, hand-in-glove, while life swirls and curls happily around them. A treasure of grandmotherly love to share with ages 2 and up.

i-love-you-too-cover-imageLove You, Too, written by Alastair Heim, illustrated by Alisa Coburn
published in 2016 by little bee books

Mama pig and her little porker move through a merry day together in this charmer. From morning wake-up and pancake breakfast, to jolly outings, baths, jammies and stories at day’s end, these two thoroughly enjoy one another’s company.

It’s the call-and-response text in this book that separates it from the rest, and it’s an absolute blast! “When I say ‘I love,’ you say ‘you.’ I love…YOU! I love…YOU!


Passing the words back and forth with young children in this singy, swingy rhythm can’t help but bring out the smiles!


Alisa Coburn’s pigs are hugely endearing. Her delicate line and candy-colored palette fill the pages with breeziness and jovial energy. Great fun for ages 2 and up.

delivery-cover-imageDelivery, by Aaron Meshon
published in 2017 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Grandma looks at her calendar at the start of this almost-wordless story and spots a big red heart on it marking a very special day. It’s coming up quick! She’d better hurry!

Bustling away in the kitchen, Grandma zips together trays full of lipstick-red, heart-shaped cookies, then packs them tenderly in a box and seals it with love. The delivery man takes it from her doorstep, and we’re off!


Off on the wildest, craziest, most exciting delivery route ever! By truck and ship, train and helicopter! Even by whale-spout and dog-sled! The package must go on! Hand it off! Hold on tight! Move it along!


Meshon’s exuberant imagination and bold, stylish designs will utterly entrance young children. At story’s end is perhaps the most surprising picture of all! Don’t miss it — it’s on the endpapers.

Packed with smiles and love, for ages 2 and up.

i-heart-you-cover-imageI Heart You, written by Meg Fleming, illustrated by Sarah Jane Wright
published in 2016 by Beach Lane Books

This sweet book is flush with tenderness, as soft and gentle as a lullaby.

Animal mamas and babies snuggle in burrows, romp in grassy patches, gather in nests, while a quietly-rhyming text describes all the ways those babies are loved.


All this takes place near a bright red house with a large garden where another mama and her little girl are picking raspberries. In the dusky twilight, they enjoy loving one another, too.


It’s a mellow, sweet refrain to share with little ones 18 months and up.

There are more Valentine’s-oriented titles in the Subject Index, if you like. Happy Valentine’s Day!


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Five friendly stories to go with your chocolate hearts…

love monster and the last chocolate cover imageLove Monster and the Last Chocolate, written and illustrated by Rachel Bright
originally published in the UK; first American edition 2015 by Farrar, Straus, Giroux

Love Monster has a dilemma which you can perhaps relate to.

He’s just arrived home from a lovely vacation only to discover a large box of chocolates awaiting him on his doorstep. Before he can even open it, his chocolate-fanatic-brain goes zinging into serious overload! Just imagine all those delectable treats nesting inside!

love monster and the last chocolate interior rachel bright

Here’s the dilemma: He knows he should share with his friends, but what if there’s not enough and he misses out? Or, what if someone takes the very best one before he can nab it? Oh dear! What’s a Love Monster to do?!

This is a serious Hair-Twirling, Nail-Biting Ethical Tight Spot, don’t you agree? Ride along with Love Monster on his rocky journey in this sunny, friendly, funny, and heartwarming book. A winner for ages 2 and up.

here comes valentine cat cover imageHere Comes Valentine Cat, by Deborah Underwood, pictures by Claudia Rueda
published in 2016 by Dial Books for Young Readers

Cat is back and this time he’s feeling quite peevish about Valentine’s Day. He is not a fan. Mooshy-gooshy-yuk.

To make matters worse, Cat’s new neighbor is a dog, a horrible, mean dog. At least, Cat hasn’t exactly met him, but all signs point to it.

here comes valentine cat interior deborah underwood and claudia rueda

Rather than extend an olive branch at Valentine’s Day, Cat plans to teach that Dog a lesson. Until something quite surprising happens that puts everything in a new light.

Headstrong, lovable Cat is an eminently-relatable character, and Rueda’s a genius at creating his vivid personality with just the twitch of an eyebrow. Great choice for ages 2 and up.

who will comfort toffle cover imageWho Will Comfort Toffle?: A Tale of Moomin Valley, written and illustrated by Tove Jansson; English translation by Sophie Hannah
originally published in Finland, 1960; this edition 2010 by Enfant/Drawn & Quarterly

If you don’t know the Moomins, you can read a bit about them and their escapades here.

This book is one of the cartoon picture books Jansson created about these marvelous creatures and it stars Toffle, a mop-haired, extremely shy-and-retiring fellow.

Toffle has come to realize that his lonely, sad life needs some change, swho will comfort toffle illustration tove janssono he bravely sets out to take a look at the world around him. Along the way, he runs across lots of merry groups — whompses and fillyjonks, Hemulen and Snufkin, folks dancing and making daisy chains, fluting and feasting on pancakes. But he is so reserved and forgettable, it’s like he is invisible to them all.

Who will comfort Toffle?

Spoiler Alert: This book has a happy ending. Dive into the fanstastical world of Moomin Valley to meet all these fab friends and discover Toffles sweet solution. Ages 5 and up.

i love you already cover imageI Love You Already, by Jory John, illustrated by Benji Davies
published in 2016 by Harper

Bear and Duck are here again. (We saw them first in Goodnight Already.) Bear is just as content as ever to shuffle about his home in peace, lounge in his nightshirt while reading and sipping tea. Ahhhh.

And Duck is just as determined to Do Fun Things Non-Stop with his great pal, Bear.

i love you already illustration benji davies

The more Bear resists, the more Duck becomes a little worried. Maybe Bear doesn’t like him? How awful would that be?!

After a dayful of botheration, pandemonium, and a near-concussion, Duck hears the reassuring words he’s been waiting for. Goofy fun. Sparkling personalities. Bold, neon-bright illustrations. Great fun for ages 2 and up.

Hedgehugs cover imageHedgehugs, by Steve Wilson and Lucy Tapper
published in the UK in 2014; first American edition 2015 by Henry Holt and Company

Finally this prickly tale of Horace and Hattie, two hedgehogs who are the very best of friends, but who find a friendly hug to be a most pointedly tricky affair.

Hedgehugs interior Steve Wilson and Lucy Tapper

All year long, these two come up with hopeful solutions to their spiky situation. But, alas! Nothing works. Until one day, the solution literally blows their way on an opportune breeze.

Find out what it is, and solve another mystery that regularly occurs around your household, all in one swoop! Charming and cute for ages Under-Two and up.

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Today — a couple of fabulous love poems packaged superbly for children and all the rest of us.

not everyday an aurora borealis for your birthday cover imageNot Everyday an Aurora Borealis for Your Birthday: A Love Poem by Carl Sandburg, pictures by Anita Lobel
published in 1998 by Alfred A. Knopf

Is that not an epic title for a poem!?!

It is because I love you I give you for a birthday present the aurora borealis.
It was a long trip I took carrying the aurora borealis to you.

It’s a slippery and confounding thing to get hold of.

But when it rests, shimmering, on his love’s doorstep — ah, it is worth all the struggle.

not everyday an aurora borealis for your birthday illustration2 anita lobel

And he’ll fetch another, if that’s what she wishes. Or even a rainbow. Because he is up for the challenge…because he loves her so.

Sandburg’s everyman, cram-it-all-in, ambling phrases surprise us with “swimmering lights” and warm us with love. Anita Lobel’s watercolors slicker with melty-sherbet-colored tongues of fire and an old-fashioned pair of sweethearts.

This gem is out of print but it felt like I struck gold when I found it in my library. Search for it — for ages 3 to adult.

i carry your heart with me cover imagei carry your heart with me, by e.e. cummings, illustrated by Mati McDonough
published in 2014 by Cameron & Company

i carry your heart with  me(i carry it in my heart)

says e.e. cummings. 

That is why these two are never really apart.

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

The love cummings praises is the root and the bud, the in and the out, the ever and always of the lover’s world. Its enormousness is really beyond language.

i carry your heart with me cummings and mcdonough

Mati McDonough has illustrated this as the love between a mother and child. Her mixed media designs are childlike and cheerful, with a somewhere-else sort of charm that echoes cumming’s style.

A sweet way to share this poem with little ones ages 4 and up.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are plenty of Valentine’s Day cynics out there, but I for one love this holiday — a day to shower some extra love on people we hold dear and spread some love in corners where it’s a bit thin.

I’ve got five sweet titles today, several more sprinkled into the upcoming week, and a bunch in the Subject Index, too, all just right for snuggling up and enjoying with someone you love!

hug machine cover imageHug Machine, written and illustrated by Scott Campbell
published in 2014 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

This boy is super-terrifically-good at hugging!

Mom and Dad, the policeman and the lady at the bus stop, even trees and a happy little turtle — everyone and everything in this fella’s path gets his giant hug treatment!

If you are a prickly porcupine and no one hugs you because of those quills — have no fear! The Hug Machine will not be stopped!

hug machine illustration scott campbell

If you are a Blue Whale and others are intimidated by your size — do not worry! The Hug Machine has got you covered.

Careen around with this energetic hugger and feel the sunshine! It’s a sublimely happy tale featuring bold, naive watercolors, childlike hand-lettering, and plenty of throbbing pink and red to blast us with all that lovin’.

Share it with kids ages 18 months and up and prepare to be hugged!!

love always everywhere cover imageLove Always Everywhere, written and illustrated by Sarah Massini
published in 2014 by Random House

Love can be quiet as two friends sharing a story.

It can be loud as a tin trumpet!

Love brings cookies and milk to a friend sick in love always everywhere illustration sarah massini 001bed.

It searches for a lost teddy until it’s found.

Sarah Massini’s minimal, rhyming text proclaims the sweetness of friendship and love — indoors and out, summer and winter, always and everywhere.

Her charming illustrations tiptoe and twirl and tickle and hug irresistibly. Super sweet read for little persons even under-One.

fox in love cover imageFox in Love, by Edward Marshall, pictures by James Marshall
published in 1982 by Puffin Books

The silly “Fox” stories by James Marshall (Edward is just a pen name) are dynamite early readers, full of the goofy humor Marshall is known for.

In this volume, Fox has a number of problems in thefox in love illustration james marshall 001 Romance Department.

He is simply goo-goo-brained over a lovely gal named Raisin. But his penchant for showing off and his line-up of Really Bad Ideas cause him a heap of trouble. Good thing his little sister Louise is such a good sport!

Funny stories, illustrated with Marshall’s brilliant drawings that exude personality and comicalness. Most early readers aren’t this funny. My kids loved ’em. Ages 5 and up.

how far do you love me cover imageHow Far Do You Love Me? written and illustrated by Lulu Delacre
published in 2013 by Lee & Low

Standing on a rocky ledge, the massive Andes Mountains wrinkling into the distance, a Peruvian mama tells her son she loves him to the heights where eagles soar.

Snorkeling around the Great Barrier Reef, an Australian mama tells her daughter she loves her “to the crannies of the corals …on the ocean floor.”

How far do you love one another? It’s a game author Lulu Delacre used to play with her children. And none of this “love you to the moon” business. These landscapes inspire more ingenuous responses!

how far do you love me illustration lulu delacre

Travel to a dozen magnificent locations around the world, including all seven continents, to imagine how far love can stretch. Beautiful paintings whisk us into the settings, and a galaxy of languages ask “How far do you love me?” at the book’s end. Ages 3 and up.

Neighbors M.B. Goffstein cover image 001Neighbors, written and illustrated by M.B. Goffstein
published in 1979 by Harper and Row

The first time I saw my new neighbor, she was waving good-bye to her moving van.

Have you been there? Shyly peeking out the window at someone new? Observing from across the room? Trying not to let the new girl notice you stealing glances at her?

The girl in this story wants to reach out to her new neighbor. Her instinct is to be friendly. But…it’s a hard business. A bit qualmish. So, she stalls.

Takes a little freshening-up bath.
Changes her kerchief.
She’s just got up her gumption and is heading out the door when an idea occurs. “I ought to bring her a pie!

It’s much more comfy mixing, rolling, sprinkling in your own kitchen than going out to Meet New Persons. Finally she’s finished. Her neighbor greets her and her pie warmly and invites her in. But — all that cooking wears a body out and it seems she falls quite asleep in her neighbor’s house!

M.B. Goffstein has written a delightful story of two shy neighbors edging their way towards one another and friendship. I love the honesty and universality encompassed in her brief text.

neighbors interior m.b. goffstein

Additionally, we have her cool illustrations — minimalist line drawings which miraculously invite us into the pages. In this era of sumptuous color and complex line and mixed media layers in our children’s books, Goffstein’s bare-bones line acts like a whisper in a crowded room — it hushes us and rivets us our attention.

I’ve refrained from using the word “simple” in my review as what strikes the eye and ear as simple is achieved through incredibly hard work. But that is the feel of this quiet story.

A lovely read for ages 4 and up.

Now go and bake your neighbor a Valentine’s Pie!

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by Jessie Wilcox SmithMy Valentine
by Robert Louis Stevenson

I will make you brooches and toys for your delight
Of bird song at morning and starshine at night.
I will make a palace fit for you and me,
Of green days in forests
And blue days at sea.

Have a lovely Valentine’s Day, and make someone happy. 

Come back Monday when I’ll have some awesome books for celebrating Presidents’ Day.  



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vintage_valentine-1Valentine’s Day is coming! Time to break out the chocolates and candy hearts, construction paper and doilies, and tell folks we love ’em!

One way to celebrate is by joining in International Book Giving Day on February 14, which you can read about here. It’s quite simple — give some book love away; and quite powerful — stories shape us.

Looking for some sweet treats in the way of books? Try…

little treasures cover imageLittle Treasures: Endearments from Around the World, words by Jacqueline K. Ogburn, pictures by Chris Raschka
published in 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Dumpling? Snickerdoodle? Little pumpkin? What terms of endearment do you use with your children?

We were partial to “little potato” from a brilliant piece we heard on Minnesota Public Radio years ago. I wish I could imbed it, but you can give it a listen here. Truly awesome lullaby!


around the world, folks invent all kinds of sweet talk, from  “poppet” to little treasures illustration chris raschka 001“lambchop” to “little mischievous pea!” Visit 17 different countries with fourteen languages to learn some of these charming, affectionate nicknames. Chris Raschka’s illustrations wobble and radiate cheer across all the jolly pages. 

An interesting Author’s Note tells us a bit more about the use of endearments in other cultures and the challenge of compiling this list.  Love this book!

all kinds of kisses cover image tafuriAll Kinds of Kisses, written and illustrated by Nancy Tafuri
published in 2012 by Little, Brown and Company

Nancy Tafuri has been producing some of the best toddler books for decades now, so if you see her name on it, you know it’s gold.

This pleasingly-large book is quintessential all kinds of kisses illustration detail from nancytafuri dot comTafuri, with just a few words narrating the glorious, full-page,  illustrations. Burst-of-summer greens and tomato reds, sunny yellows and robin’s egg blues wash through her close-up, gentle compositions. Masterful. 

Meander around the barnyard to see all the wee ones enjoying their mamas’ kisses — little chick, calf, dove, lamb, pup and more, happily soaking up the love. The best kiss of all is saved for last. Can you guess who’s getting it?

Sheer bliss for the very youngest bookworms.

i like you cover imageI Like You, by Sandol Stoddard Warburg, illustrated by Jacqueline Chwast
originally published in 1965; 
currently published by Houghton Mifflin Company

Vintage sweetness here, with the same fetching i like you illustration jacqueline chwastfeel as the Ruth Krauss-Maurice Sendak collaboration A Hole is to Dig.

There are such a lot of good reasons for liking a dear friend:
They remember important things we tell them.
Laugh at our jokes.
Give us time to be sad and quiet when that’s just what we need.
Like us back.

You’ll enjoy this collection of small, insightful, childish thoughts about what makes a person settle in our hearts, and you’ll adore the sketchy ink drawings by Chwast. Sized for small hands, share it with preschoolers and up, or tuck it into an i-love-you package for any size of sweetheart. 

violet and winston cover imageViolet and Winston, by Sonya Sones and Bennett Tramer, pictures by Chris Raschka
published in 2009 by Dial Books for Young Readers

Valentine’s is a good day to celebrate friendships.  Here are three episodes of two enthusiastic, through-thick-and-thin pals, Violet the swan and Winston the duck.violet and winston illustration chris raschka 001

On a picnic, the oblivious Winston drives Violet a bit batty; at the café, Winston’s glasses go missing; and at a garage sale, sentimental Violet confounds Winston’s money-making scheme. These exuberant stories have clever plots, a big scoop of silliness, endearing moments, and a sweet finale. 

Who better to illustrate them than Chris Raschka with his joyful, swishy, playful lines and colors bringing the personalities and predicaments to life. Great fun for ages 4 and up.

herman and rosie cover image gus gordonHerman and Rosie, written and illustrated by Gus Gordon
published in 2013 by Roaring Book Press

This last title has the heartbeat of An Affair to Remember. You know the film where Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr  just miss one another at a critical moment?

Herman Schubert (a crocodile) and Rosie Bloom (a deer) live in their own worlds, all alone, in New York City.

They are such interesting folk. Herman likes potted plants and films about the ocean. Rosie likes pancakes and jazz. They both love the city, and they both love music. In fact, playing the oboe and singing are two of the ways Herman and Rosie keep themselves happy in their somewhat-lonely lives.

When the kibosh gets put to their music-making, they are despondent. It herman and rosie illustration gus gordon from slj dot comtakes time and patience, a sunny walk in the park, a few near misses, and a rebirth of music, before fate happily brings the two together. Oh how nice.

It’s a quirky, charming tale with an unabashedly happy ending. Gordon’s mixed media collages exude personality, New York-ness, the ethos of an old black-and-white film, and lovability. Give this a whirl for ages 5 and up.

You can find more Valentine’s Day titles by searching in the Subject Index. I hope you find time to make someone happy this week!

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Looking forward to that sweet holiday, Valentine’s Day, coming up.  Yesterday’s post has some great titles for parents and grandparents to share with kids they love.  Today’s is about a superb effort to spread a little love around by sharing delightful books with children — and fittingly, it coincides with Valentine’s Day.

 International Book Giving Day is a volunteer initiative aimed at increasing children’s access to and enthusiasm for books.

How do you celebrate International Book Giving Day?  Here are three suggestions from their website (where you can also read lots more interesting stuff!)

1. Give a book to a child you knownew or used.

2. Leave a Book in a Waiting Room or Lobby

Choose a waiting room where kids are stuck waiting and there are few to no good books available. Purchase a good book, and deposit your book covertly or overtly in your waiting room of choice. The goal here is to spread the love of reading to kids, so choose a fun book, nothing controversial.

International Book Giving Day badge3. Donate a Book.

Wrap up a box of children’s books that your kids have outgrown and get them in the hands of children who could really use a book or two. Donate your books to your local second hand store, library, children’s hospital, or shelter. Alternatively, donate your books to an organization working internationally to get books in the hands of kids, such as Books for Africa.

I love this effort! and am looking forward to shopping at some thrift stores for some excellent titles to bring to a clinic in Minneapolis that services the Native community.

 I would love to hear from any of you who choose to spread book love on Valentine’s Day!  Sounds like such a great project to work on with kids.

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