Storytime: Love 2.0

Last year I did a round up of love picture books that I’ll now call Love 1.0. Some were specifically meant for Valentine’s and some showed what love looks like any day of the year. But there are so many more picture books to love about love! And what better month to celebrate this fruit of the spirit than February?

If my grandson, age 22 months, were to write valentines, I’m certain he’d write ones for his people, mom, dad, grandparents . . . but he’d also write one for trucks.

River loves trucks. He kisses them goodnight. He runs straight to the truck books on the shelf, reads them to himself while jabbering, notices a truck on the page or on the street when nobody else does. We can talk about and celebrate all kinds of love with even the very young, and finding just the right book can help. Here’s a few to add to your stash.

Be My Valenslime by Kris Tarantino, illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld

This one just came out a month ago, and it’s adorable. There’s all these monsters who are “A tad bit gruffy. A big grumpy. And definitely not lovey-dovey.” And then there’s Snoodle (pretty much the most adorable name for a monster ever). Snoodle loves candy hearts and sparkly stickers and valentines, but these monsters don’t do Valentine’s Day. Snoodle sets out to convince them otherwise. She shows them how to decorate boxes, and even when they get gloppy with glue and chaos ensues, she is patient, because “love is patient.” When a monster tears a hole in Snoodle’s box with his claws to make a slot for the valentines, it’s not what Snoodle pictured, but that’s okay. She says thank you, because “love is kind.”

The monsters keep being monstrous, but “love isn’t quick to get angry,” and it “doesn’t remember mistakes” and it “doesn’t have to be perfect.” For the kids in your life that stress out when things don’t go their way (and the adults), this silly story shows how great things can be if you just love, and let go. There’s lots of funny things to notice in the illustrations, and it will give you all the fuzzy feels.

Dance, Tanya, by Patricia Lee Gauch and Satomi Ichikawa

Little Tanya loved to dance.” The illustration of Tayna, slouched in a wicker chair with a tutu thrown over the back of it, is pure joy. She’s got one tube sock half off, and her feet don’t touch the floor. This intro and all the perfectly sweet illustrations set the stage, literally, for a little girl who dreams of dancing ballet like her older sister, Elise. She practices with Elise, not getting it quite right but never stopping. She dances by herself, because when you love something you just can’t give it up. She dances with her bear. But she’s too little to take lessons, she can only watch. True love yearns. And hopes. And waits.

Tanya celebrates Elise, is proud of her at her recital, not jealous, and still she dances, Even when she doesn’t know anyone is watching. But someone is watching, and that Christmas Tanya gets her own leotard and slippers. This picture book gives us family love, as well as dance love. You’ll love this book and so will the kids in your life.

Little Gorilla by Ruth Bornstein

I also included this in my post featuring picture books about Baby Animals, but I include it here, too, because it’s such a perfect picture of the love of a family for a baby. It’s a wonderful read aloud with simple text and big, bright pictures and a crowd favorite that I often gift at baby showers.

Everyone loves baby gorilla, from his parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, to green parrot and big boa constrictor. There’s this great moment, this awesome page turn when everything changes.

Just about everybody in the great green forest loved Little Gorilla! Then one day something happened . . .

Little Gorilla grows and grows and three pages later, Little Gorilla is BIG! He’s got this melancholy expression, no longer a baby, but then “everybody came, and everybody sang, Happy Birthday Little Gorilla!” and then the last page and such a poignant line, “And everybody still loved him.” It now comes in board book, perfect for the littles in your life and everyone else. Still makes me tear up.

Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham

This is an oldie but such a goodie. Certainly not your typical Valentines book, but it’s all about love. There’s tough love. Harry’s family tries to give their dirty dog a bath, but Harry isn’t having it. He buries the scrubbing brush in the yard and runs away from home. At first, he feels free, playing at construction sites and the railroad as he gets dirtier and dirtier. He gets so dirty he changes “from a white dog with black spots, to a black dog with white spots.”

There’s also the love of family. Ever had a kid who threatened to run away from home when they were unhappy? Were you that kid? There’s nothing like being tired and hungry to help you realize how much you miss your people. You’ll do almost anything to get back to them. Harry runs home, but when his family doesn’t recognize this black dog with white spots, he digs up that scrubbing brush and puts himself in the tub. He gets the soapiest bath he’s ever received, but this time he’s smiling. Once he’s clean, his family recognizes him and “combed and brushed him lovingly.” He’s a scamp of a dog, he even hides that scrubbing brush again, but he’s happy on his pillow, knowing he’s loved. May it be so for every child, and all pups.

How to Send a Hug by Hayley Rocco, illustrated by John Rocco

This is the first time Hayley Rocco has teamed up with her talented and award-winning husband to write a picture book, with several more coming (lucky us!) I love this ode to letter-writing, and I guess I also love that it was written by a husband and wife team. My husband Clay is my fellow brainstormer and sometimes collaborator. He helps me revise and years ago, back in 2006, we wrote a picture book together about meerkats. Maybe someday we’ll publish it . . . but I digress.

In this book, a girl that’s really good at hugs wants to send one to her grandma. Talking on the phone or computer isn’t the same. Luckily, the girl has figured out how to send a hug, and she’s here to show us the steps. Get something to write with, and write on, and create a hug with words and pictures. When it’s just right, fold it and “put it in a special jacket to keep it safe and warm.” I love this description of putting a letter in an envelope.

Give your hug directions and a “ticket” (a stamp) and a “Hug Delivery Specialist” (postal worker) will pick it up. There’s a special building where hugs are sorted (post office) and then you have to wait and wait and wait. But love and hugs are worth waiting for! While the girl waits, she imagines all the journeys of all the hugs traveling around the world, “And when they arrive after their incredible adventures, the real magic happens . . .” page turn to see all sorts of people reading letters, including Grandma who is hugging the letter from her granddaughter.

Hayley Rocco has a great website where she features books she wrote as a kid (they’re a hoot). And John Rocco’s talent and breadth have won him a Caldecott Honor. What a team, and what a perfect love story they’ve written.

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