Heart-y Reading: A String of Hearts by Laura Malone Elliott
TOMORROW WAS THE CLASS VALENTINE'S DAY PARTY.
"MAKE A VALENTINE FOR EVERYONE," SAID SAM'S TEACHER, MRS. WRIGHT.
"WRITE SOMETHING SPECIAL ABOUT EACH CLASSMATE."
For young bear cub Sam, this is a daunting assignment. What do you say to Nicole about a skunk's "special" quality, especially after she'd said his new light-up sneakers were dumb? The one classmate he really wants to honor, however, is Tiffany, the most popular girl in the class. Tiffany is always surrounded by friends and admirers, and Sam is too shy to have ever spoken a word to her, but now he hopes a special Valentine will be the way to get her attention. But arts and crafts are not Sam's long suit.
"WHAT'S WRONG?" SAID MARY ANN.
"I NEED TO MAKE A REALLY GOOD VALENTINE." SAID SAM.
"REALLY?" MARY ANN SMILED. "WHO FOR?"
MARY ANN'S FACE FELL.
Sam's old friend, Mary Ann, obviously had hoped the special Valentine might be for her, but she swallows her pride and offers to help him make their Valentines at her house anyway. Sam readily agrees and manages to come up with something personal about all of his classmates except Tiffany. All he really knows about her is that, since she dresses in purple every day, it must be her favorite color. With Mary Ann's artistic advice, he decorates her Valentine with lots of tiny purple hearts.
"IT'S THE NICEST VALENTINE I'VE EVER SEEN," MARY ANN SAID QUIETLY.
But on the day of the party Sam is devastated. His special Valentine is ignored by superstar Tiffany among the many fancy ones her admiring fans have made for her. Meanwhile, Sam finds in his coat pocket a beautiful string of hearts from Mary Ann, each with something special about him that she admires.
Suddenly, Sam realizes that while he knows nothing special about Tiffany, he can think of lots of good things about his real best friend.
"I COULD THINK OF HUNDREDS OF THINGS TO WRITE ABOUT MARY ANN." SAM REALIZES.
Laura Malone Elliott's brand-new A String of Hearts (Katherine Tegen Books, 2010) has much to say about what it takes to be a true friend. Noted artist Lynn Munsinger's cheery illustrations skillfully portray the emotions of the young students--skunks, raccoons, bears, and cute kitty Tiffany--in their facial expressions, but she gives squirrel Mary Ann the best supporting actress role in this pleasing and meaningful story of true friendship realized.
This short and sweet Valentine's Day story pairs especially well with Diane DeGroat's equally apropos Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink and, of course, Marc Brown's now "classic" Arthur's Valentine (An Arthur Adventure).