Show Your Kids How Much You Love Them

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."

Satisfied sigh.

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

Ages 5-8


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.