Inside: 5 Valentine book reviews with lots of follow-up suggestions.
Hello! I have a sweet treat for you today.
I found 5 of the loveliest Valentine books for your kids or your primary classroom. The children in your life are sure to love these stories.
Be sure to read to the end for links to some tried and true Valentine activities. (Amazon affiliate links included).
by Laurie Friedman and Lynne Avril
Synopsis (from book jacket): When Ruby’s favorite day of the year rolls around, she and Lovebird work feverishly to plan the perfect party for everyone in Heartland. But when Valentine’s Day arrives, an unexpected snowstorm threatens to ruin all of Ruby’s plans. Will Ruby find a way to save the day, or will everyone in Heartland have to wait until next year to celebrate?
Why I Like It: I love the colourful, light-hearted, sketchy illustrations of Ruby and Lovebird. Also, the rhyming text has a rolling rhythm which, as a Grade 1 teacher, I always appreciate because it’s important for young kids to tune their ears to language which helps immensely with reading, writing and oral language skills. The book’s message is a great one, too ~ “If you’re with the ones you love, that’s all you need to celebrate.”
Activity: Ruby learns that planning the perfect party is not what makes Valentine’s Day great; it’s being with the people you love.
After discussing that message with the class (or your own kids) it would be fun to let go of your perfection, and let the kids plan their own party.
Sounds scary, I know, but you’ll be surprised at what kids come up with. Most parents and teachers have too much on their plates, and planning a Valentine’s party is a lot to take on.
But most young children have had lots of party experience and would be able to take on tasks of their own, i.e., cutting out Valentines or drawing pictures to decorate the room, bringing a treat and favourite game from home.
If you give them the space and trust to come up with their own party plan it will come together and be fun for everyone (I know because I’ve tried it several times with my own grade 1 class). It’s not perfect and things are forgotten, but the kids are proud of their accomplishments and always have a great time with their friends!
by Laura Male Elliott and Lynn Munsinger
Synopsis (from book jacket): Valentines come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some are home-made and some are store-bought. Some are funny and some are not. Sam wants to give just the right valentine to the most popular girl in the class, Tiffany. But what kind is the right kind? Mary Ann helps Sam figure out how to make all sorts of valentines. But will Tiffany even notice Sam if he gives her a special valentine?
Why I Like It: I thought this book dealt really well with the meaning of friendship. It’s so easy to get caught up in liking the popular child (because everyone else does) and losing track of who your true friends are. Mary Ann is a good friend, and happily Sam figures that out!
Activity: After reading A String of Hearts, it would be really nice to have everyone create their own string of hearts (for a family member or family friend), with a message about why they love that person(s). Knowing who you like or love is easy, but coming up with several reasons why is a great way to extend thinking.
by Barbara Samuels
Synopsis (from book jacket): Keep Out! That means you, Dolores! reads the warning sign on her big sister Faye’s dresser. But when Dolores spies Faye hiding a mysterious heart-shaped box, she can’t resist sneaking into Faye’s room and taking a peek inside the box. What she discovers is a frog. Not just any frog–it’s a singing froggie, a Valentine’s Day necklace. Why not try it on, Dolores wonders. And, once she’s wearing it, why not show it off to a few friends? Faye will never find out…Or will she?
Why I Like It: This book is immensely relatable! The number of times I’ve heard complaints about younger siblings is hilarious. Even though Dolores is too nosy for her own good, and needs to learn to respect her sister’s property, the story has a lovely little twist–and I’m SURE Dolores finally learns her lesson.
Activity: This is a great text to use for predicting. Give each student a piece of paper that they fold into quarters. Divide the story into 4 logical stopping points and after reading the first section, give the students 5 minutes to draw a picture of what they think will happen next. It’s important to stress that this isn’t an art lesson — they just need a quick sketch, and if there’s time they can add a little colour.
When everyone has their sketch ready, bring them back to the carpet to share their predictions. Usually I have them all hold up their pictures and then pick just two or three students to share their thinking (otherwise it takes way too long).
Read the next section of the story, stop and draw predictions, share, and repeat until the story is finished.
With this story, my first stop would be at the bottom of page 3 where Dolores peeks into her sister’s drawer.
Second stop is top of page 11, “In the bathroom, Dolores finally figured out how to open the clasp of the necklace.”
Third stop is the end of page 18 when Dolores realizes she’s lost the necklace.
Fourth stop is bottom of page 26 when Dolores puts the new froggie back into her sister’s dresser drawer.
Of course you can divide the story any way you like, but I thought I’d tell you how I’d do it just in case you were unsure.
by Alison Jackson and Tricia Tusa
Synopsis (from book jacket): In a faraway canyon, Valentine goes about her business, tidying her cabin, running errands, and baking pies. Little does she know that someone very special things about her every day. Her bashful admirer wants to ask her an important question. But, try as he might, none of his notes, letters, and heartfelt messages ever end up in the right place!
Why I Like It: This book is very comical and kids will enjoy all the funny ways that the suitor’s letters and messages to Valentine go missing. There’s lots of lovely detail in the illustrations that might require second and third readings. The entire text is written to the tune of “Oh My Darling, Clementine” which I just love! And of course there’s a happily satisfying, though somewhat surprising, ending.
Activity: There are 12 verses to this story. It would be SO much fun to give groups of children (2 or 3 per group depending on the size of your class) one of the verses to memorize and sing. They could also draw/colour/paint a picture depicting that verse. Once everyone is finished, the class could stand in a circle with their partner(s) and drawing, and sing the story! If they practiced enough, it would also make a FABULOUS assembly presentation!
by Eve Bunting and Jan Brett
Synopsis (from book jacket): Because Mr. and Mrs. Bear always hibernate in the winter, they have never celebrated Valentine’s Day. This year Mrs. Bear decides things will be different. Just before she and Mr. Bear settle down for their long winter’s sleep, she sets her alarm clock for February 14. When the alarm goes off, Mrs. Bear gathers some of Mr. Bear’s favorite treats. Then she brings out two Valentine poems that she herself has written. But alas, bears are meant to sleep through the winter, and no matter how hard Mrs. Bear tries, she can’t seem to wake Mr. Bear.
Why I Like It: This is a very sweet story about love. I really like how Mrs. Bear goes out of her way to show Mr. Bear how much she adores him. And of course Mr. Bear has a valentine for her, too — he was only pretending to be sleeping. I also find the illustrations intriguing. They look like ink drawings with a bit of watercolour, but only red and a pale shade of orange. As a result, the book has an appealing, old-fashioned feel to it.
Activity: Mrs. Bear wrote two poems. Here’s one of them:
Red Berries are Red,
Blue Berries are Blue,
Termites are sweet,
And you are, too.
It would be very doable to have Grade 1 students write their own poems based on that frame:
_____ are red,
_____ are blue,
_____ are sweet,
And you are too.
A good copy could be glued to the centre of a great big valentine!
I hope you enjoyed these books and the activity ideas.
Before you go, be sure to check out some other Valentine posts I have on the blog:
PS: If you’d like to read about more great books, please check out Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!