14 New Picture Books to Share with the Kids You Love This Valentine’s Day
by Iva-Marie Palmer
Just like we try to remember to be thankful on days that aren’t Thanksgiving and generous when it’s no longer the holiday season, we all work to do our best to honor the bonds of love (parent to child, friend to friend, neighbor to neighbor) both on Valentine’s Day and beyond. This new crop of picture books features some stories that are expressly about the holiday, some that are more about what love means in the everyday, and one option that sets its affections firmly on tacos. Great for gifting on February 14 and reading all year long, these reads are sure to warm hearts old and young.
Tilly and Tank
In this age of political polarization, online feuds, and Twitter wars, we may not always set the best example for our kids of how to approach new people in the hopes of friendship. Fleck’s funny book is about Tilly, an elephant, who spies Tank on the horizon and at first figures the green machine for another elephant. The story reveals the joys of unlikely friendships and teaches tolerance and kindness as first steps to making the world better.
The 12 Days of Valentine’s
In the same style as “The 12 Days of Christmas,” Lettice’s fun-to-read countdown to Valentine’s Day will be a fast favorite with the preschool and kindergarten sets. The rhyming list is a treat in itself but that the book includes stickers to share will have young hearts doubly aflutter.
Newbery Medal winner de la Peña sent a message with his Last Stop on Market Street that the riches in life aren’t a matter of possessions but in possessing a perspective of gratitude. In his latest picture book, with breathtaking illustrations by Long, we’re reminded that love can assuredly be found all around us if we just stop for a moment to absorb and appreciate the many forms it takes. It’s a great way to reframe Valentine’s Day as being more about what we feel and transmit to our fellow humans than about how many paper hearts and chocolates we give or receive.
Geisel Award-winning author and illustrator Long asks the important question in this latest entry featuring the characters from his Fright Club: What could be more frightening than falling in love? Fran K. Stein is up to something and none of his monster pals can guess what. The last thing they’d expect is for Fran to be making a valentine. In hilarious fashion, Long shows readers that even the scariest monsters sometimes get a case of the warm fuzzies.
What the World Needs Now Is Love
The 1965 song you’ve surely heard (that lilting “What the world needs now is love, sweet love”) calls on us to appreciate each other — everyone, no matter whom. A valentine to the idea of overlooking no one and each person mattering, the message is arguably as resonant as it was in the ’60s. Vibrant illustrations in all the colors of the rainbow make this a visual treat, too.
Love from Peter Rabbit
Featuring original illustrations by Beatrix Potter, this small volume carries a sweet message that’s just right for a bedtime cuddle. (Fun fact: Peter Rabbit and his naughty but ingenious ways came about when Potter set out to write a letter to a 5-year-old son of her ex-governess and didn’t know what to write.)
It can be hard for anyone to make friends, but particularly a porcupine: Elmore is, after all, the very definition of prickly. Spikes shoot off his back at the most inopportune times. However, the warm message of this book is that the right friends take the time to get to know the true you, spikes and all. This sweet story is excellent to share this Valentine’s Day.
If you want a book that will truly tug at your heartstrings, this is probably the one. Penned by the late Amy Krouse Rosenthal with her daughter, this book encourages the little girl in your life (or any child in your life, really) to be fully and confidently themselves, whatever that means. Rosenthal, whose picture books include I Wish You More and Uni the Unicorn, lost her battle with cancer last year but this book helps to further cement her legacy as a beloved writer for the ages.
Love Me Tender
Presley’s hit 1956 love song becomes the basis for this picture book that’s almost certain to become a classic for children and the people who love and care for them. Pairing lyrics like “I’ll be yours through all the years / Till the end of time” with illustrations in which children will see themselves reflected, this is sure to be a must-buy for all new arrivals (and makes a perfect valentine to kids, too).
This Is NOT a Valentine
If you know a kid who doesn’t go in for hearts and flowers and Cupid and all that mushy stuff, this is the book to show them that showing you care doesn’t always fit into a red-and-pink template. The lesson here is that showing off our secret hiding spots, lucky rocks, and gumball machine goodies and, most importantly, paying attention to the stuff our crushes, kids, friends, and neighbors like are the true ways to show what’s in our hearts.
Adams’s sweet tale of love given and love returned — conveyed through a burgeoning friendship between a little girl and a duckling — is rendered with beautiful illustrations by Keane (the author of the picture book Once Upon a Cloud and a development artist for the Disney films “Tangled” and “Frozen”). Children will love the tender and funny moments, while adults will prize the opportunity to talk about how sometimes loving something means knowing when to let it go.
Dragons Love Tacos: The Definitive Collection
In an ideal world, we’d use Valentine’s Day to celebrate the noblest forms of love. And, really, can we be nobler than pledging undying devotion to tacos, a most glorious food? In the case of the titular dragons, loving tacos can come at a price … if the wrong kind of salsa is involved. But here’s one can’t-go-wrong thing about this new boxed set: The tales will spur shared laughter among kids and the grown-ups they read them with. There’s no sweeter (or spicier) valentine for children.
Click, Clack, Moo, I Love You!
“Familiarity breeds contempt” isn’t true at all when it comes to children’s favorite characters — in this case, the gang from Cronin and Lewin’s award-winning Click, Clack series. In this entry, Little Duck is planning a Valentine’s Day party for the farm when a fox on the hill hears the music. Unfortunately, foxes aren’t always welcome company on farms and the rest of the guests hide. But maybe a newcomer is just what the farm needs?
Some days, we all need our mamas, and little penguin Kipling is no exception. He knows his mom is bound to return any day but he can’t help feeling her absence and wishing she’d get back sooner. Then he receives a package from her, including a note that reminds him that his mother is always with him, no matter how far she may be.
What new books do you think are perfect reads for Valentine’s Day? Let us know in the comments section below!