With Valentine's Day just around this corner, let's look at some sweet reads to share with your favorite little valentine(s):
Alfonso wants to catch Ida's eye, but she constantly has her attention on her book. When he decides to make a cake, only the salt from the deepest sea, butter from the summer sun, and flour as delicate as snowflakes from the sky will do. Apple Cake: A Recipe of Love is a gentle, warm, and beautiful story that features an interracial couple; one of my favorites.
Blanket of Love is a unique celebration of love, symbolized by comforting and enveloping blankets: blankets of flowers, blankets of kisses, etc.
Celebrate Valentine's Day is part of the excellent National Geographic's Holidays Around the World series. Like the others in the series, it explores the history and traditions of the holiday as it is celebrated around the world.
Emma Dodd is the queen of gentle, sweet, and comforting stories about unconditional love. Forever features a polar bear mama and her cub; her other similar stories feature animals as well.
When I did preschool story time on a regular basis, Full, Full, Full of Love was one of my standard titles for my Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day story times. It features a large family gathering for a meal at grandmother's house, full of good food, fun, and definitely hugs and kisses.
Sophia and Mrs. Goldman have been friends for a long time--ever since Mrs. Goldman knitted baby Sophia a hat to keep her warm. Mrs. Goldman is so busy knitting hats for everyone else that she doesn't have a hat of her own! Sophia tries very hard to knit a hat, but gets discouraged with all the lumps, holes, and missed stitches...until she gets a brilliant idea! A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting and Love is charming, funny, touching, and multicultural (Mrs. Goldman is Jewish; Sophia is Latina); a great choice for kindergarten and lower elementary school students.
Here Comes Valentine Cat continues Deborah Underwood's hilarious Cat series. Cat is definitely not interested in Valentine's Day and all its mushiness. Next-door-neighbor Dog constantly throws things over the fence, annoying Cat in the process...until he throws a ball! This is a tad less snarky than the other Cat books, which makes it more accessible for toddler young preschool audiences (the other Cat stories are great for K-3 students).
How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? is part of Jane Yolen's super popular How Do Dinosaurs...? picture book/board book series, featuring dinosaurs demonstrating good/bad behavior. Dinosaurs show their love in different ways, from cleaning up their messes, to not roaring, and more. This series shows positive behavior without being boring or preachy, which is why it continues to be a hit!
Love Is is a gorgeous rendition of the 1 Corinthians passage, ideal for sharing with young listeners (especially if you have a Sunday School or religion class scheduled around Valentine's Day).
A Mother for Choco is one of my standard Valentine's Day read alouds. It's become an adoption classic of sorts, as Choco finds a mother that looks very different from him (with a delightful surprise at the end).
Looking for a biography about the saint for whom the holiday is named? Saint Valentine is a richly illustrated biography of the Christian martyr (Ann Tompert's biography is another good choice).
My favorite Valentine's Day story, Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch, is a bit too long to share with my regular story time groups; happily, all library copies are checked out, so it's well-known to our patrons. Mr. Hatch is quite the curmudgeon, which makes the fact that someone is anonymously sending him valentines quite surprising! In the process of finding out the source, Mr. Hatch extends kindness and friendship to all, which has a rippling effect. It's a sweet story without being saccharine, and its message remains timeless.
By the time this is published, the 2018 Youth Media Awards will be underway (I'll post thoughts on them the following week!). Unfortunately, due to residency requirements, Town is by the Sea won't be one of the Caldecott winners, which is a shame. It's quiet, sophisticated, and rather lengthy, which means that it's not for everyone; however, this stunningly illustrated story about a young boy thinking about his father as he works in the coal mine is a unique gem.
If you want a nonfiction read aloud for kindergarten and lower elementary school students. Gail Gibbons's Valentine's Day Is-- is one of your best bets. Gibbons's trademark cartoon-like illustrations and succinct text makes this accessible for young learners.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library