Friday, January 26, 2007

More Heart-y Reading: Valentine's Day Books for Ages 2-8

Here are some suggestions for the age 2-7 set which entertainly illuminate the whole idea of Valentine's Day.

Cynthia Rylant teams up with illustrator Fumi Kosaka to show us a little boy happily designing Valentines for family and playmates, pets, and even birds and trees, all in cheerful rhyme and nicely textured illustrations, in If You'll Be My Valentine.

For the tot fan of Little Bear on television, Else Holmelund Minarik's Little Bear's Valentine keeps a mystery going as Little Bear tries to identify his secret admirer while delivering and receiving Valentines from the usual suspects. Again the story demonstrates the concept of reciprocity and mutual affection for friends and family. Illustrator Heather Green manages to reproduce most of the charm of the original Sendak illustrations of this series.

For the school-aged reader, my vote goes to the latest in the series about Dolores and her cat Duncan, Happy Valentine's Day, Dolores, by Barbara Samuels. Dolores' habit of "borrowing things" from her sister Faye's room gets her in a pickle when she can't resist the frog necklace inside a tiny Valentine box in Faye's bureau. When Dolores just has to try it on, she discovers that she can't release the catch and has to wear the necklace to school, only to have it confiscated in music class.

When Dolores gets home, she hurries to put the necklace back (the illustrations show Dolores dropping the necklace and Duncan happily playing with it as she rushes upstairs) and finds it gone from pocket. Thinking quickly, Dolores slaps a bandage and some catchup on Duncan to fake an emergency, takes a cab to the gift shop (conveniently next door to the vet), buys another necklace, and hurries home to hide it in Faye's room. When Faye suspiciously presents her with the lost necklace (which she downstairs found on the floor), Dolores unabashedly presents Faye with the new necklace and a cheery "Happy Valentine's Day, Faye!"

This book has an upbeat take on the vagaries of the sisterly relationship and wonderful illustrations which extend the humorous twists of the plot. Readers and listeners will single out Duncan the cat's droll expressions and body language as Dolores drags him through the whole kerfuffle. It's a perfect read-aloud book for Valentine week.



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