Kid's Stuff -- Books About Valentines
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Written by Carol Carrick
Illustrated by Paddy Bouma
(Clarion, 1995)

Somewhat heavy thematically, this farm story starts out with a little girl pleading with her mother not to go to work in the morning -- it is Valentine's Day, after all! -- but Mama eventually detatches herself and leaves little Heather on the farm with her Grandma. As it happens, on that very day, one of the sheep gives birth to two healthy, wooly lambs and, on closer examination, to a smaller, weaker "bummer" lamb, which the ewe won't take care of. From here on out, this book is a lot like Kim Lewis's Emma's Lamb, in which a wide-eyed little girl takes care of a foundling lamb, although here the possibility of the animal's death is much more explicitly dealt with. The story may be a little too intense for smaller children (I skimmed over some of the more upsetting dialogue), but everthing works out in the end. Good book about farm life, with an added gloss of single-parent/working mother drama thrown in for good measure. (B)

"Froggy's First Kiss"
Written by Jonathan London
Illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
(Penguin/Viking, 1998)

A Valentine's Day book in which the ever-embarassed Froggy develops a crush on Frogilina, who reciprocates with a big ol' smackeroo for her would-be beau. Does Froggy turn more red than green after that? You bet your sweet bippy he does. Then he kind of freaks out and withdraws, and we realize he is too young for the whole girlfriend thing... So, Froggy heads for home and asks his Mommy to be his valentine, instead. The sad part is that Frogilina spends the rest of the series mooning after Froggy, eternally unrequited. Alas! (B-)

"Emily's Valentine Party"
Written by Claire Masurel
Illustrated by Susan Calitri
(Penguin/Puffin, 1999)

Emily -- flap books, sticker books and all -- is a bit of an industry, but nonetheless these are pretty nice books for little readers who like nicey-nice stories. Very cute little bunny! (-)

"One Zillion Valentines"
Written by Frank Modell
Illustrated by Frank Modell
(Greenwillow, 1981)

Two friends, Marvin and Milton (the subject of other picturebooks by retired New Yorker cartoonist Frank Modell) discuss the meaning of valentines... Milton is cranky about it -- no one ever gives him any valentines, and besides they are really expensive, so why should he give any himself? Marvin is a true believer, though, and convinces Milton that you have to give in order to receive, and that if you make your own valentines, they aren;t expensive at all. Together, they create a "zillion" heart-shaped zingers and distribute them throughout the neighborhood, then sell the rest for a nickel apiece, giving Marvin just enough cash to buy a really swell valentine for his pal, Milton. Nice one. (B-)

"If You'll Be My Valentine"
Written by Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Fumi Kosaka
(Harper Collins, 2005)

A sweet Valentine's Day book, with big, cartoonish artwork that is easy to understand and perfectly compliments the text. A boy makes valentines for all the characters in his life -- his dog, his cat, his parents and younger siblings, even for the bird outside his window and the tree in the front yard. I like this book: it's cheerful, generous of spirit and hits just the right note for little kids who are young enough to be enchanted by the idea of valentines, especially ones that you make yourself. Recommended! (A)

"Be My Valentine"
Written by Rosemary Wells
Illustrated by Rosemary Wells
(Hyperion, 2001)

Yoko and the kids at Hilltop School swap valentines (including secret valentines to special friends!) and then sneakily make a super-special valentine for their teacher, Ms. Jenkins. Nice, realistic look at the buzz and thrill of Valentine's Day in grade school. (B)

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