Monday, January 22, 2007

Hearts and Flowers: Time for Valentine's Day Books

If you're in need of good books to read to that school Valentine party or to hook a beginning reader, here are a couple with a great track record:

Denys Cazet, author of the very funny "I Can Read" Minnie and Moo series, has a guaranteed giggle-provoking book for the holiday titled Minnie and Moo Will You Be My Valentine? In this outing Moo pens an "Ode to the Cream Puff:"

Your peaks are crowned
With the sweetest snow;
Your valleys crisp
In deep-fried dough;
Your insides filled
With that custard stuff;
How I love thee,
My sweet Cream Puff.

Inspired by this deathless poesy, Minnie and Moo decide to dress as a pair of bovine cupids and go about the countryside firing their arrows (suction cup-tipped, of course) laden with love poems. Since Moo can't keep the poems in order, she manages to deliver misleading messages to both farm animals and farmers, with star-crossed "lovers" reminiscent of a Shakespearean comedy. The love complications inspire Minnie to compose her own poem:

Moo, I can't take another step.
I'm tired, I'm cranky, I'm out of pep;
These clothes don't fit, I look a fright.
The underwear is much too tight!
I'm telling you, Moo, I've had enough.
I'm tired of all this cupidy stuff.

From the "Ready-to-Read" series comes Cynthia Freeman's long-running Henry and Mudge series about Henry and his gangly, good-natured St. Bernard, Mudge.
The Henry and Mudge series features gentle, homey humor and a close family neighborhood setting, as evidenced in Henry and Mudge and Mrs. Hopper's House. Henry's parent dress up in tuxedo and ball gown to attend the sweetheart dance ("I bet you didn't know I was this handsome," says Henry's dad), and Henry and Mudge spend the evening with Mrs. Hopper, whose slightly spooky house is filled with cats and her father's old stage costumes. When Henry's parents pick him up, they find Henry and Mudge both splendidly attired in formal dress. ("I bet you didn't know I was this handsome," Henry tells his dad!)

Another sweet treat for young children is The Night Before Valentine's Day, by Natasha Wing. Using the familiar Clement Moore rhyme scheme, this catchy story covers what to expect from what can be a confusing holiday for little kids.

If you need some "guy" books for Valentines Day, don't overlook the "oldie, but goodie" Arthur's Valentine, by Marc Brown. This is one of the best "Arthur Adventures," especially for a holiday story that won't have the boys gagging at the mushy stuff. It's almost Valentine's Day and Arthur keeps receiving saccharine handwritten Valentines--at school, at home, and even in his sacrosanct tree house! He finally determines that Francine is the secret admirer who sends him a ticket to meet her the local movie house. Arthur weasels out of the romantic tryst by having Francine close her eyes and wait for his kiss; Arthur sneaks away, leaving a chocolate kiss on his empty seat!

Another title which boys will sit still for is Diane DeGroat's Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink , in which Gilbert engages in a little payback with his classroom "enemies" by sending them mean messages and signing each other's names to them. Margaret and Lewis are steamed with each other until they notice that they have no Valentines from Gilbert and confront the real poison-pen writer together. Gilbert repents and the class party is saved, with new appreciation of how teasing can cause hurt feelings among friends.

If you find yourself in charge of a such a classroom Valentine party, here's the book you've gotta have: Valentine School Parties...What Do I Do?. (In fact, if you're the "room mother" for the year, you might as well buy the whole series by Wilhelminia Ripple!) For Valentine parties she offers six themes (Hearts, Cupids, Love & Friendship, Animals, Post Office, and February & Presidents), and also provides games, crafts, favors, refreshment ideas, and instructions for making the requisite Valentine Box.

If you want to make some Valentine cards and decorations at home, you need All New Crafts for Valentines, by the queen of holiday craft books, Kathy Ross. This book has good instructions with drawings for simple things to make with inexpensive and "found" materials. For older kids, try Valentine Treats: Recipes and Crafts for the Whole Family.

Have a heart-y holiday!



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