February has just barely arrived, but our Valentines were done a week ago, the girls’ Valentine’s Day candy and gifts have been purchased and my husband and I actually have a date night planned during the same week in which Valentine’s Day falls.
This has NEVER happened before.
Procrastination runs thick in my blood (I intended to post this yesterday), and I’m always leaving these things to the last minute, especially when it comes to Valentine’s Day, a holiday for which I have exactly one decoration and to which I give little thought.
Of course, my life is a little like a Looney Toons cartoon; I’m the animated character trying to block the water leaking from a dam – I get a few holes plugged but that only makes the water come out faster somewhere else; eventually, the whole dam will bust apart. Let’s just say you don’t want to look in my laundry room (or anybody’s closets, for that matter).
So, to further put off the washing, I’ll share my thoughts on Valentine’s Day books.
I’ll start by saying I generally detest holiday themed books. Christmas books are the exception because their “shelf life” is longer. You can pull them out at Thanksgiving and they last until the last remnants of Christmas are cleared away, sometimes well into January if you’re anything like me. But Valentine’s Day, Easter and Halloween books only seem appropriate for a couple of weeks in their respective months. “Where is Baby’s Valentine” just isn’t fun to read in August.
Which is why my very favorite “Valentine’s Day” books are those that don’t directly reference the holiday at all. Rather, they take the holiday’s themes of hearts, affection and love and create books that can be read all year long.
Michael Hall’s “My Heart is Like A Zoo” is a perfect example. If you’ve been perusing Pinterest lately for Valentine’s craft ideas, you may have come across pins like these:
Comprised almost entirely of various sized hearts, these animals were inspired by the bold artwork of Hall’s book of similes that compare the characteristics of a menagerie of adorable animals with the diverse feelings one has in her heart. (Watch the book trailer and see the animals in motion here.)
For example, my heart is…
“happy as a herd of hippos drinking apple juice”
OR is it “angry as a bear”?
It would like to be “peaceful as a portly walrus lounging on a towel.”
But that will have to wait until March.
For now, it’s as stressed as a housecat waiting for the vet. (I made that one up myself!)
Hall’s vibrant colors and imaginative use of hearts earn him comparisons to Lois Ehlert and make this book visually fascinating for children and adults. Everyone has a favorite animal: Eloise loves the seal, Charlotte fancies the blue jay and I favor the elegant heron.
I also enjoy the book’s closing pages, depicting the tired “zookeeper” tucked into bed and overlooked by his animal friends. As a child, I had a similar habit of lining up all my stuffed animals, and the image brings back fond memories.
The back cover of the book offers a brief tutorial on Hall’s construction methods.
This teacher‘s students used Hall’s book as the inspiration for their amazing arctic landscape.
Not only can Hall’s artwork inspire your Valentine’s crafting, but his images also offer a great lesson on shapes (the subject addressed last week at Charlotte’s preschool). Can your child identify and count all of the hearts used to make each animal? Have them trace the individual hearts with their fingers.
All three of my girls will be getting books alongside their candy for Valentine’s this year. (I take advantage of any excuse to gift them new reading material: Easter, Halloween, first and last days of school, and I may go a little overboard at Christmas — see photographic evidence at right). At the moment, both of the older girls are hooked on fairy books. Eloise is ready for Book 4 in the Never Girls series, and Charlotte and I will be reading “Rosy and the Secret Friend” from the Fairy Bell Sisters series.
Since Flora’s reading tastes have yet to be verbalized, I’m excited to give her Leslie Patricelli’s “Huggy Kissy,” another example of a book that’s great all year round. I’m also giving her a copy of “Lily’s Chocolate Heart,” putting aside my distaste for Valentine’s-themed books. Henkes is ALWAYS worth it, and I love how he’s captured a common habit children have of hoarding their holiday candy.
As I was researching Valentine’s Day books, I came across this fantastic article at Huffington Post with tons of great suggestions for books with themes of love without the traditional Valentine’s Day cheesiness. I can’t wait to check out “Olive and the Big Secret,” “Jonathan & Martha,” and “Bear in Love.”