Valentine’s Day is a holiday all about sharing and friendship and love. And it’s right around the corner! Schoolchildren celebrate with classroom parties and the traditional passing out of valentines.
There are some funny and silly children’s books about those experiences; also several recently published picture books that beautifully examine the value of friendship. Here are some of my favorites to share with your favorite youngster:
Funny and silly
• “A Crankenstein Valentine” by Samantha Berger; published by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers; $17.99 hardcover
Crankenstein is at it again. If you’ve read the original, “Crankenstein,” you know that Crankenstein is a school-aged child of indeterminate age. Children in grades K-5 all know a Crankenstein, and at times may be a Crankenstein! Crankenstein hates Valentine’s Day. He hates his new heart underwear. He hates the heart-shaped sandwich his mother sends in his lunch. He hates the crafts and the cards and cupcakes. What does a Crankenstein need on Valentine’s Day? Why, another Crankenstein, of course.
• “Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentine” by Barbara Park; published by Random House; $4.99 paperback
There is a whole series of Junie B. Jones books, and they are great reading for early readers in grades 2-3. They are also great short read-alouds for your family. In this installment, Junie receives a big, mushy card “Valentimes” card from a secret admirer and sets out to find the identity of that admirer. And it’s definitely not as easy as she first thinks it will be.
• “The Night Before Valentine’s Day” by Natasha Wing; published by Grosset and Dunlap; $4.99 paperback
In a take-off of Samuel Clemens’ “The Night Before Christmas” poem, these kids get ready for Valentine’s Day. Instead of sugar plums, they dream of conversation hearts. Instead of looking forward to gifts in the morning, they are thinking about their classroom parties. But wait: Who is the surprise visitor who brings a valentine gift for the whole class? The rhyme is engaging and children love the familiarity of the poem.
• “Cherry Blossom and Paper Planes” by Jef Aerts and Sanne te Loo, published by Floris Books, $17.95 hardcover
“Some friends are more than friends. They grow like twin cherries from the same stem.” This is a beautiful picture book about friendship and what happens to close childhood friends when one moves away. Dina and Adin have a special childhood friendship and spend many idyllic hours together in the local cherry orchards. One day, Adin announces that his family is moving to the city. Will Dina and Adin ever see each other again? Can their friendship survive?
• “The Friendship Book” by Mary Lyn Ray, published by Houghton Mifflin, $14.99 hardcover
From the same author of “The Thank You Book” comes this special book about friendship. Friends come in all shapes and sizes, and friendship can be immediate or blossom slowly. What makes someone a friend? Trading secrets and lunches. Sharing special days or “can’t-hold-them-in-laughs.” The illustrations are charming and the text is a pleasure to read. This is a celebration of the qualities of friendship.
• “In A Jar” by Deborah Marcero, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books, $17.99 hardcover
“In a Jar” is my favorite new-release picture book of the season. It’s about a little rabbit named Llewellyn and his friend Evelyn. Together they collect extraordinary things in jars in order to admire and remember experiences. They collect rainbows and starry nights, the sound of the ocean, the smell of the wind right before it starts to snow. One day, Evelyn tells Llewellen that her family is moving far away. Will there be a way to stay connected? The premise is enchanting, the illustrations are beautifully done and the text is lyrical and special. It’s a delight.
If you have youngsters in your life — children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, neighbors — please consider reading to them. There is nothing quite like the bond that occurs with a good book. Children learn the joy of the rhythm of language and the value of beautiful words. Imaginations are stretched and thoughts are developed.
Reading to a youngster provides a nurturing environment that promotes future literacy. It’s a simple thing to do, and it’s a very rewarding experience for the reader and the “readee.”
• Luanne Clark works for Inklings Bookshop. She and other Inklings staffers review books in this space every week.