It will be no surprise to you that ReadKiddoRead thinks books are the best ways to show the children how much you love them on Valentine's Day (and every day!). Here are three new ones with themes that tie right into the warmest day of the year: February 14!
Penguin and Pinecone
A Friendship Story
By Salina Yoon
Ages 3 and up
In very few words and simple, boldly-outlined pictures that fill the pages with energy and light, we meet a penguin who finds a pinecone in the snow. "What's this?" Not a snowball, not food – but whatever it is, it's cold. Penguin knits it a scarf. Cozy. But Grandpa says it's still too cold for Pinecone, so Penguin packs up his sled with gear for a long trip, and, holding Pinecone delicately in his hands, treks and treks until he reaches the forest. He leaves his friend there and heads home. Time passes, and Penguin gets curious. He makes the journey back to the forest, and there he sees one tall pine tree with an orange scarf wrapped around its top. "Pinecone?" Of course!
When it's time for Penguin to return home, the author reassures us: "Penguin and Pinecone may have been apart, but they always stayed in each other's hearts."
What a fine Valentine's Day message about friendship and love. Actually, what a fine message for any day.
Otter and Odder: A Love Story
By James Howe; illustrated by Chris Raschka
When Otter falls in love with a fish – maybe her name is Myrtle, or maybe what he heard was "Gurgle?"— even he knows it's impossible: "I am in love with my food source." Still, this unlikely pair perseveres – playing hide-and-go-seek, telling each other stories, enjoying the sun in the mornings and the starlit night skies. But people (or in this case – otters and fish) talk: their relationship is wrong, unnatural. Myrtle leaves Otter and returns to her family.
It takes a wise Beaver to convince Otter that he can find other food sources. And, the Beaver points out, if Otter does, then he could follow his heart straight back to Myrtle. It turns out that apples and tree bark and the fruit of water lilies are delicious! Myrtle returns, their love thrives, and yes, they live happily ever after.
James Howe's telling reads like a movie, acknowledging that parents ought to enjoy the story along with their kids, thereby broadening the audience for this romantic and good-sense tale. Chris Raschka's watercolors present the under-the-sea setting in pictures that almost move in the waves. His characters are primitive – just shapes, really, but with expressive easy-to-read faces.
A terrific family Valentine's Day read.
The Candy Smash
By Jacqueline Davies
Ages 8 and up
What's fourth grade all about? Friendships, secrets, classroom drama, and the start of figuring out who you are. And, when it's close to Valentine's Day, fourth grade is about first romance. On top of that, Mrs. Overton, Jessie and Evan Treski's teacher, has chosen this time of year for her poetry unit, and the kids are all reading and writing poems about love. Oh – one more thing – candy hearts with personal messages – are showing up on the kids' desks. Most of the messages are simple appreciations of classmates' strengths: Ryan's heart says "slam duck;" Tessa has a "nice smile;" and Nina is a "spelling champ." But Evan's message is different. His hearts say "be mine." Who is sending the hearts?
Jessie decides to get to the bottom of this. Her strategy is to use the class newspaper and do some serious investigative reporting. Once she starts digging, she makes discoveries, and she prints them, not thinking about the consequences. Her brother convinces her not to distribute the newspaper issue with the big reveal, but somehow somebody gets his hand on one copy. As a result, Megan, Jessie's friend, is embarrassed when she is named the source of the candy-hearts.
Chapters alternate between Jessie's new enthusiasm for journalism and Evan's discovery of his own passion for poetry. Jacqueline Davies takes full advantage of both, giving readers lots to learn and think about in both fields – from the difference between investigating and snooping to poetry techniques from metaphors to hyperbole. All the while the classroom drama unfolds, the clues add up, and the relationships of the kids in Mrs. Overton's class change and grow making Candy Smash a satisfying read on several levels.
A terrific tie-in to Valentine's Day, but a good anytime school story for boys and girls alike.
By Anita Silvey
The opening line of E. B. White's Charlotte's Web — "Where's Pa going with that axe?" — has now been read for over sixty years by adults to eager young listeners. Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time and Ezra Jack Keats's The Snowy Day have been picked up with enthusiasm for over fifty years. For seventy-five years parents have shared The Hobbit. This year Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are turns fifty. These books and others like them (Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Virginia Lee Burton's Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, and L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables) bring generations together – allowing a parent or grandparent to return to a book that he or she read as a child.
What makes a children's book a classic? This question on the surface has a very simple answer. Any book that has moved to the next generation, 16-20 years from publication date, if still read and in print, is considered a classic. Consequently, no instant classics exist, as many ads like to claim. Some of our bestselling books of the last 15 years, such as the Harry Potter series, have not been around long enough to be called classics. But although length of time in print defines a classic, certainly the qualities of the book itself are more important in making it possible for a book to become one.
Generally speaking, our classics include fascinating stories and characters. These books have a plot line that keeps children turning the pages to find out what happens. They contain characters that children want to get to know better – often ones that children consider their friends. Because adults buy books for children, our classics must please adults but also appeal to children. Like Charlotte's Web, our classics are often distinguished by beautiful writing and expressive art. Rather than being mere surface stories, classics tend to have a more serious, but subtle, underlying theme or message that can be comprehended by children. When I recently asked an 11-year-old Texan girl why she loved The Secret Garden, her favorite book, she said it "showed her that even if you are very sick, you can be healed by people and nature." Most adult critics have not been so eloquent in summing up the idea behind this book.
But how do parents, caregivers, teachers, and grandparents find the classics that still work with children and the new books good enough to become classics? About three years ago I set out to compile a list of around 500 children's books, new and old titles, that had the ability to change's children's lives and that both adults and children love. The result, The Children's Book a Day Almanac, can be found on-line at http://childrensbookalmanac.com. Every day in cyberspace I post an essay about one of these books, tied to a day of the year. In a sidebar, I also list other titles that can be used for events that happened on that day. The site provides an easy way for people to gain information about the best books to share with children, a day at a time. Now a paperback edition of The Children's Book-a-Day Almanac is also available, for those who like to search for information on the printed page. The Almanac leads adults to books that they will enjoy – and ones that children have enthusiastically endorsed.
Another great resource for titles, ReadKiddoRead.com contains reviews of new books, many with the qualities that may well make them classics. There are also themed booklists available on the site to help adults find books for kids that focus on particular subjects, holidays, age levels. All of the books at ReadKiddoRead are selected because they are proven kid-pleasers, books that will ignite a passion for reading.
Reading research reveals that sharing a book with a child, 10-20 minutes a day, is the most important thing that can be done to guarantee a child's later success. In adulthood people mention not only the books that changed their lives but the people who shared them. If, during this Valentine season, you want to do something of lasting significance, give the children you love books and read those books to them. It is also a way for you to become part of their most cherished memories. Happy reading – whatever your favorite classic happens to be.
Begin with some of these classics:
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by L.M. Montgomery (Ages 9 and up)
CHARLOTTE'S WEB by E. B. White; illustrated by Garth Williams (Read aloud: ages 5 up; Read alone: ages 8 up)
THE HOBBIT by J.R.R. Tolkein (Ages 11 up)
MIKE MULLIGAN AND HIS STEAM SHOVEL by Virgnia Lee Burton (Ages 4-8)
THE SNOWY DAY by Ezra Jack Keats (Ages 3-6)
THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR by Eric Carle (Ages 3-6)
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak (Ages 4-8)
A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeline L'Engle (Ages 9 up)
Anita Silvey writes and speaks about children's books across the country. She is the creator of The Children's Book-a-Day Almanac and author of Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children's Book.
By Pam Yosca Christmas, Hanukkah, and birthdays: opportunities to slide classic, literary titles from your own childhood into your kids' hands or a chance to prove how well you know your children's taste in current books?
Should you give kids the popular books they want? Absolutely! We want children to enjoy reading, and find camaraderie with other kids in the books they have in common. Should you also seek books that go beyond your children's wish lists and push through their reading comfort zones? Yes! You can be a helpful guide in your children's literary development, in tandem with their independent choices. Kids are actually quite likely to give your selections a chance, because as parents, you are a trusted resource (even if they tell you otherwise.)
We were curious to know what books kids asked for this past holiday season, as well as what books they received. How do kids make book selections? Are they influenced by their friends? Parents? Other knowledgeable adults? Do they want help finding new books, or do they want to be left alone when it comes to choosing books for their own not-for-school reading?
To find out, Pam Yosca, a middle school librarian, talked to several readers, ages 10 to 13, from two public schools in Boston. The results? Kids generally know what they like to read. The loudest message from our casual, parent-and-teacher-free conversation is that many young readers are comfortable with the process of selecting books for themselves and appreciate the freedom to do so. Despite that, young readers are still likely to read (and enjoy!) a book thoughtfully selected by a grownup who knows and cares about his or her reading interests. Read on to learn more.
What books did you request and receive for Christmas/Hanukkah?
"The SEPTIMUS HEAP books by Angie Sage."
"Falcon Quinn by Jennifer Finney Boyle"
"The fifth book in THE MISSING series by Margot Peterson Haddix."
"I didn't ask for books for Christmas but got a lot! I read all of the books my mom and dad gave me already. They know how much I read and that I always need to find more books. I think they get help from the bookstore lady, too."
"I asked for Gary Paulsen books"
"I put two books from THE LORD OF THE RINGS on my list, but didn't get them. I don't know why."
Did you get books that you did not ask for? Have you/will you read these books?
"The Maze Runner by James Dashner. It's really good, have you read it? It's a trilogy."
"A nonfiction book on photography to go with the camera I got for my birthday. It's cool and useful."
"I got The Princess Bride by William Golding but haven't read it. I might someday."
"My younger brothers gave me the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book by Jeff Kinney. Of course I read it."
"Some fantasy book with dragons…way too many dragons!"
"Just-So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. They were good!! I recognized some characters and stories from movies and from something we read in school."
"I got The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes and read it, and also Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink."
"I got a big book of Greek Myths, because I love the Rick Riordan books."
"I didn't ask for any books, but got The Power of Three by Diana Wynne Jones, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan, The Girls' Life Ultimate Guide to Surviving Middle School and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. I read all of them, and think you should consider getting The Boy in the Striped Pajamas for the school library!"
"Girls Think of Everything by Catherine Thimmesh. It's a book about girl geniuses. I read it at school already, but there are a lot of girls in our house, so this is good to have."
"My grandma gave me The Land of Green Ginger by Noel Langley. She said it's a classic book. I'll definitely read it."
"A Leonardo da Vinci biography by Kathleen Krull. I read it, but it was really boring."
"I got a biography of Cleopatra, but I'm not very excited about it."
Do you think your parents have a good idea of what you like to read?
"I like it when I find a great book myself and then my parents read it to see why I love it. Then my mom finds me other books that are similar. She also gives me books that she read when she was little."
"I asked for some books for Christmas, and got a few from my parents that I didn't know. All the books look pretty interesting. My parents like to talk about books, and ask lots of questions about the books I read. I think they know what I like."
"My parents always want to see a sample of a book before we buy it for my Nook, so my mom really knows what books I like to read. She also looks at my book choices at the library or bookstore, and says which ones are okay for us to borrow or buy."
"Sometimes my parents try to give me books that they think I should read. At first I really didn't want to read THE MISSING series by Haddix, but my mom kept insisting. One afternoon I had nothing to read, so I tried them, and I really liked them!!"
"Out of 30 books my parents have given me, I've liked maybe 5 of them. They try to take me to the bookstore and share books with me, and we tend to get into arguments. But I read a lot!"
"My parents have a pretty good idea of what I like to read, and we read books together and talk about them."
"My parents always buy me classic books, but I prefer to get recommendations from friends."
"I like to find my own books, but I do like help, too. If it wasn't for my dad I wouldn't have started reading Greek Mythology, but I picked out the PERCY JACKSON books on my own."
"My parents used to do story time with me when I was little, and I would always pick out the books. I still like to find my own books."
"My brother and sister know exactly what I like to read, because they see me reading all the time!"
"I don't usually listen to what grownups say about books. I like to find my own books."
"It depends. My dad recommended The Hobbit and THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, and since it had wizards and dwarves, I said I would give it a try. So if a grownup describes a book that is an adventure or fantasy, my two favorite genres, I'll take that recommendation, but not otherwise."
Do you look to other adults for book advice?
"Yes! The librarian at the public library." [Every child echoed this.]
"Not really, I like to trust my own self."
"Yes, a good family friend gives me new, interesting books, every year. She introduced me to The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip by George Saunders, and I really liked that book. You should read it!"
"Not really. I just go to the graphic novel area of the library or bookstore."
"No, but if a grownup gives me a book, I usually will try it. That's how I got into the Maze Runner series by James Dashner—someone I barely know gave it to me! "
How do you find out about new books?
"I try to find new books by the same author of a book I really liked. Then read everything!"
"I am going to the library this afternoon!"
"I force myself to read a book I don't know anything about. If it has boring parts, sometimes I'll skip them and read the interesting parts instead. Then I'll go back and read the boring parts."
"I usually get recommendations from friends, or, I go to the library and pick out a book that looks good and read a bit of it. When I realize I like the book a lot, I'll find more books by that author or look at the references on the back."
"I find out if I like a book by reading the back cover or flap, and also by reading a few pages, at the beginning, or scattered throughout."
"I do that, too; I start reading it. I actually hardly ever read books that I don't like, because I make sure I really want to read it all first."
Thanks to the students from The Curley K-8 School and MATCH Middle School, both in Jamaica Plain, Boston: Charlie (6th grade), Claire (5th grade), Emmet (4th grade), Lacrisha (7th grade), Margot (4th grade), Nathan (6th grade), Nolan (4th grade), Nuala (5th grade), Suki (5th grade), and Willa (5th grade).
This year, will you resolve to read four books a month with your child?
Print this pledge and sign it with your kiddo, and get the year off to a great start!