Happy Valentine's Day! Nobody likes squishing a chocolate in the box and finding the wrong flavor, so you'd better check out the PlanetEsme list of unlovable love stories to make sure your storytime stays sweet for elementary school children. Also, check out "Ten Ways to Use Books to Say I Love You on Valentine's Day," and these pitch-perfect new picture books for when love is in the air...and in the library.
really wants a pink fluffy rabbit toy, but is gracious enough to accept the knitted armadillo made by her loving grandmother. The new friend strives to impress, to no avail:
Milo Armadillo was athletic.
"That's good jumping," said Talullah, "but rabbits jump higher."
Milo Armadillo played funky tunes.
"Very good," said Tallulah airily, "but rabbits only play classical music."
After a few rounds of best efforts falling short, Milo Armadillo hits the road, leaving Talullah to realize that she has, in fact, "lost something very special." Wah-lah, here we have hit the page where the experienced storytime teller will sadly say "the end" and elicit the pained squeals of the audience, but fear not...Talullah will follow the unraveled pink thread to find her friend yet again and redeem herself, in true happily-ever-after spirit. A very fetching artistic style combines a colorful, broad, sketchy line with textile collage; it's fun to see Grandma's actual yarn visually pop off of the page, and the actual pink knitted pattern makes Milo seem extra squeezable.
On Tallulah's Valentine's playlist, I would safely guess that Milo would put Crosby Stills Nash and Young's "Love the One You're With," or maybe Cinderella's "Don't Know What You Got Till It's Gone." The moment when Talullah weeps "I don't WANT a pink fluffy rabbit...I want Milo Armadillo!" the reader can barely resist a moment of schadenfreude by shouting "too late, sister!" In fact, besides being an attractive and darling book, this is a valuable little parable with a dash of emotional bravery that makes a point without preaching: the way we treat others affects others (surprise!), a marvelous point to make as young children developmentally "decenter" and realize that the ones who love us have feelings, too, and these feelings are just as important as our own. Sure, perhaps some teens and adults could afford to be reminded of this as well; share with the person you know who pores over their "ideal mate" list a few too many times, and needs to take a more appreciative peek at the nearest armadillo. And start downloading the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back." (5 and up)
Also of interest:
Love is in the air! Or at least, friendship.
A FRIEND LIKE YOU by Tanja Askani (Scholastic)
A wild animal expert shares pairings of rescued and domesticated cuties to demonstrate that friendship is always possible, even when it seems most unlikely. "Even if you think I am different...something just tells me we are going to get along." Ah, a white squirrel says hello to a tiny owl! Look at that baby bunny sticking his tongue out at a grouchy hedgehog! The LOLcats-like adorable-ness of the photographs may seem facile at first glance, but in fact, the reaction I got from children made me realize this book is more than a greeting card. These odd couples serve as a comforting affirmation that there is a friend out there for all of us, and culminate as a real world example of acceptance. If animals can manage to see past outward appearances, why can't we? Also setting this book apart are the endnotes, offering the names and types of all of the creatures great and small and their back stories, giving this title a nonfiction twist that makes it a special treat for young animal-lovers. (5 and up)
HENRY AND THE VALENTINE SURPRISE by Nancy Carlson (Viking) A big heart-shaped box on Mr. McCarthy's desk has the whole class a-buzz. Does the teacher have a girlfriend? Nosy, nosy! Is it the friendly playground monitor, or the generous lunch lady? How about the French teacher, oh-la-la! It turns out that Mr. McCarthy has a whole room full of people he loves, and manages to give both his class...and the reader...a big surprise. Exuberant illustrations feature a cast of animal characters both cheerful and chummy, and sharing this book is like giving one of those fun little cut-out classroom Valentines to anyone who listens. (5 and up)
Another Valentine's story with a surprise ending may be found in ANDY SHANE IS NOT IN LOVE by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, illustrated by Abby Carter (Candlewick), a recent addition to the cunning "Andy Shane" bookshelf that should appeal to fans of Suzy Kline's masterful "Horrible Harry." Bossy but likable Dolores can't help wondering why her best friend is spending so much time with the new girl in class, but the answer is that Andy's love affair is a classic one for a little boy, and Dolores has nothing to fear. Fall in love with this series that builds reading confidence and success for new readers! (6 and up)
And what do you love? Share a shortlist of any three faves in the comments below by February 21st, 2010 (what three books do you love? Or three foods? Three songs? Three dreams you hold dear? Three friends? Three teachers? Three websites? Or even three things you love to hate, if you happen to be a Valentine Scrooge?), and be entered in a drawing for three books that celebrate February: the lovely LIN YI'S LANTERN: A MOON FESTIVAL TALE by Brenda Williams and Benjamin Lacombe (Barefoot) for Asian New Year, Patrica Polacco's stirring JANUARY'S SPARROW (Philomel) for Black History Month, and the romantic wordless picture book romp SUNDAY LOVE by Alison Paul (Houghton Mifflin) in honor of Valentine's Day. I love reading great children's books, and sharing them with you, and I love when you share them with children in turn! XOXO!
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