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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Valentine’s Day Picture Books

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

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Kiss Kiss, by Jennifer Couelle, with fun illustrations by Jacques Laplante, is the perfect book for a Kindergarten or Grade One classroom. The rhyming text covers kisses for every occasion: “Kisses that say ‘hi’ look just like those that say ‘goodbye… A morning kiss can feel so right—like sunshine after a rainy night.”

Kids could contribute a page to a class Kiss, Kiss book after brainstorming the kinds of kisses in their lives. What sounds do kisses make? “Big ones like…smooch! And little ones like…peck!” might spark an onomatopoeia (sound words) lesson. How about a lesson on counting by twos? “A kiss is sweet, when 4 lips meet.” Or the plural form: “If you have lots of love to send, add ‘es’ at the end.”

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Book Cover The Secret Life of Squirrels a Love Story

Kids will be mesmerized by the illustrations of The Secret Life of Squirrels: A Love Story, by nature photographer, Nancy Rose. It’s one in a series of books featuring photos of squirrels in miniature sets constructed out of cardboard, clay and craft supplies. Tiny props contain hidden peanuts in order to capture the creatures in human-like poses. Mr. Peanuts is lonely. We see him hanging out at the badminton net without a partner, then crying into a box of tissues. He meets Rosie in the bookstore, reading his favourite book (the original The Secret Life of Squirrels). “He’s absolutely nuts about Rosie.” Together they play hopscotch, climb on the swing set, jump from trees, and wish at the well where wishes cost 5¢, and kisses are10¢. This book might prompt a lesson on procedural text—it lists all the characters do together, including exchanging Valentines and a final romantic dinner.

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Book Cover Plant a Kiss

Plant a Kiss, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, delivers a growth mindset message in the form of a kiss. It begins with a girl and a shovel. “Little Miss planted a kiss….Sunshine. Water. Greet. Repeat.” When it blooms, friends tell her not to share because it will not last, but she spreads the kiss everywhere and learns that, not only does it NOT disappear, it multiplies. This is a message that can be applied to any positive act, not just a kiss.

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I love You, One to Ten, by Caroline Adderson, illustrated by Christina Leist, is a poem from mother to child. “How do I love you, little one? Let me count the ways. One is your face, so round and glad. Two, your eyes, googly bright.” The toddler goes through snack and bath routines and then plays dress-up, recreating the reptilian creature they’ve drawn. The child uses Band-aids on “elbows and knees, dimpled and scaly, more places to kiss!” A pillow becomes a “…sturdy hump, small now, but it will be big. Little one, you will be big.” This book is an invitation for kindergarteners to create their own loveable list.

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Red is Best, by Kathy Stinson, illustrated by Robin Baird Lewis, is another good book to pattern in kindergarten. Simple black line drawings show a girl, also going through her day, with favourite objects in red. She likes her red stockings, for example, because she can jump higher in them. Or her red jacket: “How can I be Red Riding Hood in my blue jacket?” Or the red pyjamas “which keep the monsters away.” Aspiring artists might create pictures of all things red for February 14th.

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On her first day as teacher-librarian, Julie Booker was asked by a five-year-old if that was her real name. She's felt at home in libraries since her inaugural job as a Page in the Toronto Public Library. She is the author of Up Up Up, a book of short stories published by House of Anansi Press.

February 10, 2022
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