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Five New Children’s Valentine’s Day Books for 2022

Five New Children’s Valentine’s Day Books

A Roundup

 

Check out what’s new and noteworthy this year for Valentine’s Day

 

Love from Madeline coverLOVE FROM MADELINE
Based on the character created by Ludwig Bemelmans
Written by John Bemelmans Marciano 
Illustrated by Steven Salerno
(Viking BYR; $8.99; Ages 0-3 yrs)

It would be difficult to find a person unfamiliar with the Madeline Media Franchise, so when I learned that a new picture book was available based on the daily adventures of Madeline the character created by Ludwig Bemelmans, it was a welcome stroll down memory lane.

This new mini-book (the first of five)  Love From Madeline takes the reader back to the Catholic boarding school where Madeline lives in Paris with her many friends and most notably her teacher, Miss Clavel. Salerno’s illustrations of the sole red-head playing around town, skiing in the snowcapped mountains, and sailing the waters, continue her adventures. But this time she teaches us the meaning of love.

We learn basic lessons that we often forget “Love is in the simple words: good morning and hello,” as Madeline and friends dressed in matching blue outfits with yellow hats wave to the doorman and the woman selling flowers. Each page turn teaches kids how love can be as simple as giving a hug to someone upset or giving someone a lift on their scooter. When the book ends, kids see that “love is always found at home”  when Miss Clavel turns out the lights of the blue-shaded room with six beds lined up on each side and tucks the kids in for the night. This story gently and sweetly introduces kids to the real meaning behind Valentine’s Day—love.  • Reviewed by Ronda Einbinder

 

What is Love coverWHAT IS LOVE?
Written by Mac Barnett
Illustrated by Carson Ellis
(Chronicle Kids; $17.99; Ages 3-5)

Starred Review – Shelf Awareness

I read What is Love? again and again and each time I got something new out of it. The water-colored art and heart-felt prose of this book are perfect to read on Valentine’s Day or any night as a bedtime story. It’s written by NYT bestselling author for children, Mac Barnett, the two-time Caldecott Honor winner. He teams up with illustrator and Caldecott Honor winner Carson Ellis, who is also an author and illustrator of bestselling picture books.

Ellis’s watercolor paintings of greens, pinks, and blues gloriously take the reader on an artistic adventure as the protagonist sets off on a journey into the world, suggested by his grandmother, to find the meaning of love. But he soon learns that love is different for everyone. He first meets a fisherman hugging a very large fish who smiles and says “Love is a fish” when asked what love is. The boy disagrees since he finds fish slimy and bad-tasting. “The fisherman sighed. You do not understand.”

The actor loves applause, the cat loves the night and the soldier loves his horse. The characters gather together in a beautiful spread showing, “A sports car, a donut, a lizard, a ring. The first snow of winter, a maple in summer. A grizzly bear, this pebble right here-these are all things people told me love is.”

Barnett returns the boy home taller and wiser to a grandmother who is older and still wise and asks “Did you answer your question?” Ellis closes the story with a loving embrace of the two smiling with a black background and butterflies flying nearby as the boy answers “Yes.”

This modern-day take on old-time classical picture books about love reminds us that love can be more than one thing and that we are all surrounded by it even on days when we feel like it’s lost.
• Reviewed by Ronda Einbinder

 

The House of Love coverTHE HOUSE OF LOVE
Written by Adriana Trigiani
Illustrated by Amy June Bates
(Viking BYR; $17.99, Ages 3-7)

With a lovely name like Mia Valentina Amore, which means My Valentine, Valentine’s Day is always an extra special one for the main character in The House of Love, a storybook from NYT’s bestselling adult author Adriana Trigiani with art from popular illustrator Amy June Bates.

Together with her Mama, Mia helps prepare the house for the holiday. Located in the Appalachian Mountains, the home is described as slightly run down with some broken window glass, faded wallpaper, creaky stairs but also a place that, when everyone was around, “… had rooms exploding with conversation, laughter, and sometimes even an argument.”

The youngest of seven children, Mia is concerned her siblings won’t be back in time for the Valentine’s Day party. But Mama takes Mia’s mind off things by keeping her busy crafting family Valentines, decorating, and baking. This delightful mother-daughter day is spent bonding and creating special memories that only they two share. At the day’s end, after the whole family has eaten and celebrated, Mia realizes that everyone has gotten a special Valentine except her, making her feel sad and forgotten. Little does she know that something special just for her awaits beneath her pillow. Bates’s beautiful art conveys charm and an old-world feeling, like peeking into the Walton’s home. This slice-of-life story reminds readers that a house and family may be far from perfect but when it’s filled with love, it’s THE BEST place to be.  •Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

Love Grows Everywhere coverLOVE GROWS EVERYWHERE
Written by Barry Timms
Illustrated by Tisha Lee
(Frances Lincoln Children’s Books; $17.99, Ages 4-7)

Here’s a rhyming picture book for Valentine’s Day, or any day really, that celebrates how special love is. Using plants as the inspiration, author Timms presents a lovely lyrical look at how the love that makes plants grow is the very same one that can nurture many different kinds of relationships in our lives.

Yes, thought and care are all love needs/to help it grow, like tiny seeds,/that might seem nothing much at first/till up into the light they burst.

This is such a beautiful sentiment and one that children will easily understand especially the spreads devoted to making friends. Love is about helping those in need, it’s about being there for those close to us and making time for new people too.  Lee, in her picture book debut, has created rich art with diverse characters that is a delight to see page after page in various scenes. The illustrations exude the same warmth the plants do making it feel like spring is just around the corner. What an uplifting read to share this Valentine’s Day!  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Slug in Love coverSLUG IN LOVE 
Written by Rachel Bright
Illustrated by Nadia Shireen
(Paula Wiseman Books; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

This new picture book cracked me up. Between its sweet surprise near the end and the inviting rhyme that is just perfect for beginning readers, Slug in Love is a terrific book to read aloud this Valentine’s Day.

Illustrator Shireen has added to Bright’s bouncy rhythm with bold colors and geometric-shaped animals that pop off the page and might be fun for kids to try drawing themselves.

The thing is that Doug, the slug, is a huggy sort of guy, but not everyone he encounters agrees. No one is eager to embrace this little slug.  After looking for love from spiders, caterpillars, and other assorted creatures, Doug thinks he’s found the squelchy, slimy, yucky, sticky love he’s after, only he’s wrong. Is he destined to be alone? What’s a slug supposed to do? Well, as it happens, love comes to Doug in a most unexpected way. And that, it turns out, has made his search and this picture book worthwhile.  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

NOTE: I was hoping to have a review copy of Love in The Library before this post went live so I could share this true love story set in a Japanese-American internment camp during WWII. But when I went to schedule this, it sadly had not arrived. I hope you will add this picture book to your reading list

 

Additional Recommendations:

Peekaboo Love coverPEEKABOO: LOVE
Written by Camilla Reid

illustrated by Ingela P. Arrhenius
(Candlewick Press; $9.99, Ages 0-2)

The latest interactive board book in the Peekaboo You series, Peekaboo: Love is packed with things to “push, pull, or turn on every spread,” sure to entertain your little strawberries.

MY HEART GROWS
Written by Jeffrey Burton
Illustrated by Joanne Liu
(Little Simon; $8.99, Ages 1-5)

A clever novelty board book, My Heart Grows features a die-cut heart that grows along with the love the parents in this story feel. Seeing a child experience new things fills the hearts of the parents and grandparents depicted in this story. The child-like art is vibrant and adorable making this a great Valentine’s Day gift for someone special in your life.

 

Further Valentine’s Day Reading:

I Love You Because I Love You
Written by Muon Thi Van 
Illustrated by Jessica Love

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MADELINE BY LUDWIG BEMELMANS CELEBRATES 75 YEARS

IN AN OLD HOUSE IN PARIS THAT WAS COVERED IN VINES …

Madeline-cvr.jpg
Madeline 75th Anniversary Edition by Ludwig Bemelmans, Penguin Young Readers, 2014.

I’m thrilled to highlight the 75th Anniversary Edition of Madeline (Penguin, $25, Ages 3-5) by Ludwig Bemelmans. This slip-cased special edition includes a pop-up spread of Paris featuring a panoramic view with the Eiffel Tower, a familiar landmark, just behind Miss Clavel and “twelve little girls in two straight lines …”

You’re familiar with Madeline, I presume – the adorable, spunky redhead with the yellow wide-brimmed hat? Have you held onto your old copies from when you were a child? Did you also save your Madeline doll or puppet? Was it memories of Madeline that made you first want to visit Paris?

As a reviewer, I was happy to receive a press kit filled with tons of fun facts about both Madeline that I’m eager to share with you.

The Top 5 Things You May Not Have Known About Madeline
(courtesy of www.Penguin.com/Madeline)

1. Madeline is not an orphan – the old house covered in vines is a boarding school!

2. Madeline is an American by birth and a citizen of the world.

3. Madeline’s last name is Fogg.

4. Madeline gets her red hair from her mother, as seen in Madeline’s Christmas.

5. Madeline’s family owns a ranch in Texas, as learned in Madeline in America.

With over 14 million books sold worldwide, it’s no wonder Madeline remains as popular today as when she first arrived on the scene. And I have a feeling this anniversary might spark an interest in some longtime Madeline fans revisiting this beloved classic series.  Penguin makes it easy. In addition to this celebratory edition, Penguin’s also published A Madeline Treasury, which features all the classic Madeline adventures in one must-have volume; and a reissue of Bemelmans: The Life and Art of Madeline’s Creator by John Bemelmans Marciano, Ludwig Bemelmans’ grandson and author of the new Madeline titles.

And if all of this isn’t wonderful enough, an exhibit at The New York Historical Society coincides with this 75th anniversary. The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA has organized Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans, the first exhibit devoted to the artist in more than 50 years! Make your plans accordingly as this rare treat will be on display from July 4 – October 13, 2014 before it heads back to Amherst.

Madeline-pop-up-spread.jpg
pop-up spread from Madeline 75th Anniversary Edition by Ludwig Bemelmans, Penguin Young Readers, 2014.

Check out this link to see artist JTMorrow’s blog post that includes lots of great images and details about working on the special pop-up spread along with the art director, Denise Cronin, and paper engineer, Michael Caputo.

 

– Ronna Mandel

 

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The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield by John Bemelmans Marciano

Always looking on the dark side of life? Reviewer MaryAnne Locher says you’ll find that with The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield.

Cover art for The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield by John Bemelmans Marciano with illustrations by Sophie Blackall
The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield by John Bemelmans Marciano with illustrations by Sophie Blackall, Viking, 2013.

If you’re looking for a book with a happy ending, one where the protagonist learns a lesson or has personal growth, this may not be the book for you. However, if you like to read about things on the darker side of life, The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield might be the perfect book for you.

This is the story of the last in a long line of miserable bullying Baddenfields, as well as the only remaining servant in the kind and caring lineage of Winterbottoms.

We’ve all heard the rumor that says cats have nine lives, right? Who would ever think to test that theory? One very horrible rotten boy, that’s who. To make things worse, Alexander uses his own cat Shaddenfrood in his experiment. With the help of a mad scientist, Dr. Krastenenif, Alexander has the nine lives of his cat transplanted into his own body!

It would seem that nine lives would be sufficient to last well, nine lifetimes, and for any normal person they would. Not so for Alexander. Not even under the guidance of his faithful servant, Winterbottom. The boy was so reckless, so disobedient, and so foolish as to think himself invincible, that he used up his nine lives in less time than you or I would use just one.

Written by author John Bemelmans Marciano, The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield (Viking, $16.99; eBook, $10.99, ages 10 and up) will delight readers who love Lemony Snicket or who have an appreciation for grim humor. The black and white pictures by illustrator Sophie Blackall, scattered throughout the 135 page book, complement the contrast between darkness and light, evil and good, and Baddenfields and Winterbottoms.

This book comes with a warning to all readers about one-third of the way through, marked by a skull and crossbones. It reads: “You are about to embark on a tale that recounts the sometimes gruesome deaths of a young boy, and his not always pleasant rebirths.” It says more than that, something about “enjoying the story so far” and “being made of sterner stuff,” but I think you get the idea. In my opinion, this book is bad to the bone, and I mean that in the best way possible.

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