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Sweet picture books for your Valentine

Just yesterday, I read a charming essay on the importance of giving Valentines to your children. The gist of it was that it sucks to not have a Valentine, so that making sure your child or children get a Valentine from you is a way to make those years when there isn't another Valentine that much better. Plus, it's a lovely tradition. I encourage you to go ahead and read the article for yourselves.

One way that I have celebrated holidays with my kids over the years (be it birthdays, Chanukah, Christmas, or even Halloween or Valentine's Day) has been to give them books. They are both in college now, so they are getting packages with candy, heart-themed socks (too cute to pass up at Target), and cards with a bit of money in them, but when they were little kids, sweet picture books (like Toot and Puddle by Holly Hobbie) were a staple.

This year, the good folks at Candlewick sent me a few perfect-for-Valentine's Day books, plus I had a couple I wanted to mention from my stint as a CYBILS Award panelist. (And hey! The CYBILS Awards will be announced TOMORROW as a Valentine for their authors!!) And some that I bought for myself because LOVE.

First up, NEVER TOO LITTLE TO LOVE by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Jan Fearnley. It is an odd trim size (just under 5" wide by just under 9" high), and it is a cumulative story about a wee mousie named Tiny Too-Little who loves somebody extremely tall. He tries to reach her in a lot of ways, "[b]ut he's far too little, even on tiptoes . . . " on top of an ever-increasing pile of things. It is just the sort of "read-along" that young pre-readers will adore, because they will be able to "read along" with the stack of things even if they aren't yet able to read the words, just as can be done with Audrey Wood's The Napping House or Erica Silverman's Big Pumpkin. And it contains a reader-friendly, predictable disaster followed by a comforting ending that is sure to satisfy. Love this book.

Speaking of romance (which we were, whether you realized it or not), there's the second Candlewick book, PAUL MEETS BERNADETTE by Rosy Lamb. Paul is a solitary goldfish, content to take various spins around his bowl. He leads a rather unexamined life, and as if to prove that Socrates was right in asserting that "an unexamined life is not worth living", Paul's existence is shaken up and/or set to rights by the arrival of Bernadette.

"What are you doing?" Bernadette asks Paul.
"I'm going round and round," says Paul. "What else is there to do?"
"Haven't you ever noticed that there's a whole world out there? There are so many things to see. Come look over here."

Bernadette proceeds to misidentify everything in sight, much in the way that Scuttle the seagull gets things so wrong in Disney's The Little Mermaid, but Paul doesn't mind. He is entranced by Bernadette. Kids will love the misidentifications, and Wisconsonites in particular will love the (misguided) appearance of Milwaukee.

The final Candlewick book is DINOSAUR KISSES by David Ezra Stein, which is just too funny. Not that you are surprised to hear it, if you've ever read any of Stein's other books (e.g., Interrupting Chicken). But still. It features a newly hatched dinosaur (probably a T-rex) named Dinah who is fond of STOMPING and CHOMPING, and then, after witnessing a kiss between some cute little species, she wants to try that next. Needless to say, things don't necessarily go as planned.

Needless to say, things eventually work out for Dinah, in a CHOMPING, STOMPING, WHOMPING way.

I got I HAIKU YOU by Betsy Snyder from Random House as a CYBILS title. It is a small, adorable book full of love-based haiku written using the 5-7-5 construction. Some of the poems are specific to the parent-child relationship, such as

little by little
i love watching you grow up,
each and every inch

Others are more romantic, such as
hey there, snow angel,
we make perfect valentines--
match made in heaven

I'd be remiss in not mentioning (again) BITS & PIECES by Judy Schachner,, author/illustrator of the popular Skippyjon Jones books. I bought this one (and had it signed to me!) at Children's Book World in Haverford, PA. (If you live near Philadelphia and haven't visited CBW, you should.) It's a different kind of love story, one involving a crazy cat and his family, who "loved their boy to bits." It is just the sort of book to cuddle up with on a Valentine's night. You can read my prior review here.

I bought myself a copy of SOPHIE'S SQUASH by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf after I found I couldn't put it down after reading it at a local Barnes & Noble. I was there to do research/reading, and there were plenty of books to like, but this one called me back after I set it back in its place, and wouldn't let me leave the store without it. Young Sophie finds her forever (or is she?) friend in Bernice, a butternut squash picked up at the local farmer's market. This book caught me with its sly humor, as well as its surprising premise and satisfying ending. I especially like this bit:
When it was time to make supper, Sophie's mother looked at the squash. She looked as Sophie.
"I call her Bernice," Sophie said.
"I'll call for a pizza," said her mother.

Finally, there's CATCHING KISSES by Amy Gibson, illustrated by Maria Van Lieshout, which I bought on a different research/reading trip to Barnes & Noble. I bought it because, in short, I really wished I'd written it myself. It begins simply enough, with "At any given moment, someone, somewhere, is blowing a kiss./And somewhere, someone is catching it." It moves from descriptions of where kisses might be blown (or caught) to what you can do with kisses, to what kisses are:

Kisses are powerful.
No wall can hold them back.
No fence can keep them out.
They're soft as lamb's wool, but strong as steel.
They're not afraid of tears.

The book design is brilliant, from the illustrations, which have a strong graphic design component to them and use a simple color palette, and which tell a story that isn't in the text as the images range across the country to places identified on a map on the back end papers, to the type of paper used.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 16th, 2014 02:21 pm (UTC)
I adore SOPHIE'S SQUASH and had to buy it too. Will look out for your other choices.
Feb. 16th, 2014 05:49 pm (UTC)
Sophie's Squash is one of my favorite books from last year, along with The Day the Crayons Quit, which I made a special return trip to the store to buy. There are just so many wonderful books out there (Vampirina books among them!)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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