PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES FOR HOLIDAY GIVING

Picture books make great gifts. When you buy them to give away, you’re also helping support the talented authors and illustrators who’ve worked so hard to bring them to the marketplace. As I put a spotlight on a few of my own seasonal favorites in this month’s post, I hope you’ll consider adding picture books to your gift list this holiday season. Enjoy!

“Merry Christmas, Squirrels!” written and illustrated by Nancy Rose (Copyright 2015, Little, Brown, and Company) follows Mr. Peanuts, a squirrel who is “full of Christmas spirit,” as he goes on an adventure to visit his Cousin Squirrel’s house for some holiday fun. The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” really does apply here when trying to describe the entertaining antics captured by author and photographer Nancy Rose’s camera. Using handmade sets and hidden peanuts, Nancy expertly motivates her backyard squirrel friends into doing what they do best — being curious! For more about Nancy’s fascinating work, visit www.secretlifeofsquirrels.com, where you’ll also find a 2021 calendar for sale that was inspired by her “nutty” books.

“Tractor Mac, Harvest Time” written and illustrated by Billy Steers (Copyright 2007, Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers) is from the Tractor Mac series of picture books, whose author and illustrator happened to grow up on a farm. In this autumn-themed installment, Tractor Mac and his friends “share the work and share the fun,” of bringing a harvest of apples and pumpkins to neighboring fall festival celebrations. As an added bonus, the front and back of the book’s interior cover pages contain detailed illustrations of a cider press and a tractor with each part individually labeled. To learn more about Billy Steers or the Tractor Mac series, visit www.billysteers.com, where you’ll also find games and printable activities to go along with the books.

“The Christmas Truck” written by the staff at Thomas Nelson and illustrated by Alex Willmore (Copyright 2019, Thomas Nelson) celebrates some of the sights and sounds of Christmas as the Christmas Truck and friends choose a tree that is “just right” to bring back home and decorate together. Cheerful, color-filled illustrations complement the fun rhyming story to make this board book a great “read-to” for little ones.

“Good Night, Santa: A Magical Christmas Story” written by Dawn Sirett and illustrated by Kitty Glavin (2019, DK Publishing) is a novelty rhyming board book featuring a light-up cover of Santa in his sleigh as he travels through the night sky. Beautifully illustrated using the theme of a snow-filled garden cast in shadow by the light of the moon, it is the story of a little girl and her favorite teddy bear going on a Christmas Eve journey to find Santa and tell him goodnight. After meeting several woodland creatures and telling each of them good night, the little girl discovers that Santa will only come to visit after she is asleep.

For more holiday picture book favorites, please look back at my previous years’ posts.

If you have a favorite holiday-themed picture book that would also make a great gift, I’d love to hear about it.

Happy Reading 😊

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES THAT ENCOURAGE CREATIVE PLAY

This month’s picture book favorites demonstrate how easily a child’s imagination can change something ordinary into something fun. Creative play prepares children for the future by helping them build self-confidence, while also developing other valuable life skills such as concentration, problem-solving, patience, and sharing. The next time you hear the dreaded words, “I’m bored,” consider it an opportunity to encourage young imaginations to dream up some new, creative ways to play. Enjoy!

“National Regular Average Ordinary Day” written by Lisa Katzenberger and illustrated by Barbara Bakos (Copyright 2020, Penguin Workshop) is the story of a boy named Peter, who becomes bored with playing the same familiar games. Since he loves holidays, Peter thinks he will have more fun if he celebrates a new holiday each day. Things are going well, until the day comes when he has run out of holidays to celebrate. He solves this problem by using his imagination to make up some new ones. Eventually, Peter grows tired of holidays altogether and is bored once again. As he is sitting in a cardboard box, doing nothing, his imagination takes over, transforming the box and sending him on a variety of fun-filled adventures. Later, when a friend rides by on a bike, Peter decides to join him and the neighborhood kids for some “regular, average, ordinary games,” and soon finds that ordinary days can be worth celebrating too. This colorfully illustrated story highlights the value of imagination and creative play in the celebration of life’s ordinary days.

“What to Do with a Box” written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Chris Sheban (Copyright 2016, by Creative Editions) is described as “Jane Yolen’s poetic tribute to the humble box.” Since a box is just a box, until a child’s imagination gets involved, I think this book is also a tribute to children. When a boy, a girl, and a dog come across an empty cardboard box, magic happens. This rhyming story is complemented by cardboard-themed illustrations that show a child’s imagination turning the simple box into a portal for adventure, becoming such things as a library, a palace, a nook, a canvas for coloring and painting, a tea room for dolls, a sailboat, a race car, and a magical flying machine. For those of us who’ve ever bought a gift for a child, only to discover that they’d rather just play with the box, this story is a reminder that imagination is the greatest gift a child will ever receive.

“Bobby’s Magic Blanket” written by Helen Frances Stanley and illustrated by Haris Petie (Copyright 1973, Rand McNally & Company) is the classic vintage story of a boy, a dog, and a blanket. Bobby’s imagination brings fun and adventure as his “magic blanket” becomes a canoe, a raft, a magic carpet, a tepee, and a cave, while also helping Bobby pretend to be a caterpillar in a cocoon, a butterfly, a bird, a jet plane, and a super hero. At the end of Bobby’s day, after the blanket has been used as a knapsack for picking up his toys, it keeps him warm while he dreams of having even more adventures. I love the way Haris Petie’s beautiful illustrations show the relationship between Bobby and his pet dachshund, who seems to thoroughly enjoy being there, and ends the day curled up on the blanket next to Bobby. Although this book probably isn’t found in libraries anymore, I did see a few copies available for sale online. As you can see in the picture, my forty-seven-year-old copy isn’t in great shape, but it is still worth sharing as a timeless example of creative play.

If you have a favorite picture book that encourages creative play, I’d love to hear about it.

Happy Reading 😊 

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES ABOUT MINDFULNESS

One of the great things about picture books is their ability to help us see the world through someone else’s eyes. Whether it’s finding new uses for a little paper bag, bringing clean drinking water to those who need it, or helping baby sea turtles find their way home, I hope you’ll see the value, as I do, in challenging ourselves to help make the world we share a better place. Enjoy!

One Little Bag

“One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey” author illustrated in ink by Henry Cole (Copyright 2020, Scholastic Press) is a beautiful story without words that was inspired by an experience from the author’s own life. The pictures tell the story of a small paper bag, made from a tree in the forest, finding “a well-used, well-recycled life” when it is shared and reused again and again by three generations of the same family. Beginning with a little boy’s first day of school, the bag becomes a cherished and loved container of countless objects and memories. Many years later, the family returns the little bag to the earth, holding a small tree that is being planted. Considering the amount of time, resources, and energy that are required to create things like paper lunch bags, and that they are often used only once, this book encourages us to be mindful of the waste we create when we discard things before their usefulness is gone. Henry Cole has a degree in forestry, taught elementary-school science for sixteen years, and is an award-winning author and illustrator. To find out more about his work, please visit henrycole.net.

The Water Princess

“The Water Princess” written by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds (Copyright 2016, by G.P. Putnam’s Sons imprint of Penguin Random House) was inspired by the childhood experiences of Georgie Badiel, high-fashion model and founder of the Georgie Badiel Foundation. In the story, Princess Gie Gie dreams of bringing a source of clean drinking water to her beloved African village. Each day, Gie Gie and her mother join many other women and girls in walking a great distance from their homes to a well, where they gather the day’s water and carry it back home to their families. The illustrations in watercolor, using gouache and digital inks with hand-lettering by Mr. Reynolds, present the challenges of a life without water in a way that helps bring awareness to this ongoing problem. To learn more about those who are working to help solve the water crisis in Africa and around the world, please visit www.ryanswell.ca and georgiebadielfoundation.org.

Follow the Moon Home

“Follow the Moon Home” written by Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated in watercolor, colored ink, and colored pencils by Meilo So (Copyright 2016, Chronicle Books) is the story of a little girl named Vivienne, who discovers that sometimes we all need some help finding our way. Having just moved to a new school, Vivienne takes part in a class problem-solving project where she and her classmates are joined by the community in trying to help save loggerhead sea turtle babies during the nesting season. The title of the book refers to the way that newly hatched baby loggerhead turtles instinctively go toward the strongest light they see. When that light is the moon, they follow it out to the ocean where they belong. One of the co-authors of this book is the grandson of famous explorer, Jacques Cousteau, who challenged him “to go out and explore the world.” Philippe and his sister, Alexandra, founded an organization, EarthEcho International, as a resource for kids who are interested in protecting the environment. For more information, please visit www.earthecho.org.

If you have a favorite picture book that has inspired you to live mindfully, I’d love to hear about it.

Happy Reading 😊

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES INSPIRED BY TRUE STORIES

This month’s picture book favorites are fictional animal stories that were inspired by real-life events. They serve as a reminder that friendship and the devotion that comes from loving and being loved isn’t exclusive to humans. I hope you’ll find these books and read them for yourself. They touched my heart and the stories behind them gave me a greater appreciation for the wisdom of animals. Enjoy!

Ida, Always

“Ida, Always” written by Caron Levis and illustrated by Charles Santoso (Copyright 2016, Atheneum Books for Young Readers) is a story inspired by the relationship of real polar bears named Gus and Ida, who were visited by more than twenty million people while they lived together in New York’s Central Park Zoo. This fictional tribute shows readers the happy life of two bear friends who enjoy tossing a ball, swimming and splashing, and sitting together on their favorite rock. Each day, they are cared for by loving zookeepers and visited by many people, while the familiar sounds of “their city” surround them. Each night, they go to their caves, always to meet again in the morning. Things change when Ida becomes sick, with no hope of getting better. As they spend their remaining days together, Gus comes to know that Ida will always be with him through the sights, sounds, and memories they have shared.

This Way, Charlie

“This Way, Charlie” also written by Caron Levis and illustrated by Charles Santoso (Copyright 2020, Abrams Books for Young Readers) is another heartwarming book by this perfectly paired writer and illustrator. It is the tale of two unlikely friends, a blind horse named Charlie and a nervous goat named Jack. When Charlie is brought to the Open Bud Ranch to “heal, rest, and grow,” Jack, who is a loner, watches him struggle from a distance. Eventually, Jack finds the courage to approach Charlie, and begins leading him around the ranch. As the days go on, they become inseparable friends, helping each other find their way through the challenges of life. Each beautiful illustration, created with “digital brushes and love,” adds to the warmth and depth of this sweet story. The real Jack and Charlie lived at Wild Heart Ranch Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Oklahoma. For more information about Wild Heart Ranch, please visit wildheartrescue.org.

Where'd My Jo Go

“Where’d My Jo Go?” written by Jill Esbaum and illustrated by Scott Brundage (Copyright 2020, Sleeping Bear Press) is the story of a little dog named Big Al and his trucker friend and companion, Jo. It is based on a newspaper story the author read about a real-life trucker whose little lost dog patiently waited for two days before finally being found. Told in verse, the story gives the point of view of both the dog and his friend as they realize they’ve been separated and try to find each other again. Thankfully, just like in the newspaper story, these two friends are reunited for a happy ending.

If you have a favorite picture book about animals that was inspired by a true story, I’d love to hear about it.

Happy Reading 😊

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES TO MAKE YOU LAUGH

This month’s picture book favorites are meant to provide you with a dose of laughter therapy. With so many of life’s simple pleasures having been put on pause, I challenge you to be deliberate in finding healthy ways to cope with the stress and isolation that we’re all having to endure. Since humor can help improve one’s sense of well-being, I’ve chosen to read and share some books this month that I hope will make you smile, and laugh. Enjoy!

How to Give a Cat a Bath

“How to Give Your Cat a Bath in Five Easy Steps” written by Nicola Winstanley and illustrated by John Martz (Copyright 2019, Tundra Books imprint of Penguin Random House) is a comical look at the complicated relationship between (most) cats and water. The story is told through an unseen narrator, who is trying to explain the bathing process to a little girl, while her cat, Mr. Flea, is observing and reacting to the instructions. My suggestion is to read the book all the way through, then go back and have the pictures tell the story a second time. The illustrations, created in drawn ink and colored digitally, had me laughing a second time as I watched the five “easy” steps being reduced to one simple solution at the end of the book.

The Backup Bunny

“The Backup Bunny” written by Abigail Rayner and illustrated by Greg Stones (Copyright 2018, NorthSouth Books, Inc.) is a funny story about the adventures of a toy bunny named Fluffy, who is kept hidden in Mom’s sock drawer just in case her forgetful son, Max, happens to lose his favorite stuffed rabbit. The colorful, expressive illustrations will have you laughing as Fluffy is called on to save the day, again and again.

The Day the Crayons Quit

“The Day the Crayons Quit” written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (Copyright 2013, Philomel Books imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group) is the award-winning story of a boy named Duncan whose crayons left him a pile of complaint letters about the way he had been treating them. Illustrated with art created in crayon, each two-page spread contains a letter and picture that will have you laughing your way through this fun-filled book.  In the end, Duncan takes their complaints to heart as he pictures a way to make them all happy.

This month’s blog post is dedicated to my dear friend, Tina Wright, who recently passed away. She was one of my favorite people on the planet, and a wonderful friend, who made everyone she met feel special and loved.

If you have a favorite picture book that makes you laugh, I’d love to hear about it.

Happy Reading 😊

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES PUBLISHED THIS YEAR

Although any year is a great year to be published, authors with new books out this year have faced some extreme challenges because of the global pandemic. I never thought I’d grow to appreciate social media, but just think about how isolated we all would have been without it these past few months. Hopefully, meet-and-greet events will resume in the near future and authors will once again get out and about to promote their books.  One of my favorite ways to help pass the time is by reading this year’s newly published picture books. Here are just a few of my many favorites. I’m also looking forward to seeing what the second half of 2020 brings to the market. Enjoy!

The Nest That Wren Built

“The Nest That Wren Built” written by Randi Sonenshine and illustrated by Anne Hunter (Copyright 2020, Candlewick Press) is a debut picture book by a first-time author. Using the repetitive rhyming style of “The House That Jack Built,” a pair of Carolina Wrens are put on display as they work together to build a nest and raise their brood. Each turn of a page presents nesting items that range from predictable to downright surprising. When the nest is complete, their focus shifts to the care and raising of the nestlings, who seem to fly away too soon–leaving behind an empty nest.  The back of the book contains both a glossary and a fact page that will give you a whole new appreciation for Carolina Wrens. Illustrations of ink and color pencil on tinted paper bring both charm and personality to this focused look at these unique birds.

The Old Truck

“The Old Truck” written and illustrated by Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey (Copyright 2020, Norton Young Readers imprint of W.W. Norton and Company) is a debut picture book about a forgotten old truck finding a renewed purpose on the family farm. Inspired by the hard-working women in their family, this collaboration between brothers, who are also authors and illustrators, features pictures designed using over 250 stamps they created. The result is a nostalgic look at how something like an old truck in a pasture can find new life thanks to the hard work and determination of a young farmer who dares to dream.

This is the Church

“This is the Church” written by Sarah Raymond Cunningham and illustrated by Ariel Landy (Copyright 2020, Beaming Books imprint of 1517 Media) puts a modern-day spin on a classic children’s rhyme to remind us that although “churches” can be found in many different places, shapes, and sizes, the true church is the people–God’s family of believers. Colorful, kid-friendly illustrations add to the appeal of this very timely children’s book.

If you have a favorite picture book that was published this year, I’d love to hear about it.

Happy Reading 😊

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES WITH BOARD BOOK EDITIONS

When you think of board books, does your brain automatically envision the simplest of books, created specifically for babies and toddlers? Truth is, board books aren’t just for babies and haven’t been for quite some time. While there are plenty of traditional board books being published for babies and children up to three-years-old, many popular picture books also have board book editions, pushing the age range beyond those traditional boundaries and appealing to an older audience. Here are some board book editions of a few of my own favorite picture books. Enjoy!

Guess How Much I Love You

“Guess How Much I Love You” written by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram (Copyright 1996, Candlewick Press) is a board book edition of the 1994 classic bedtime story about the “to the moon and back” love that is shared between Big and Little Nutbrown Hare. I bought the book and matching toy shown in the photo many years ago, and I’m happy to say that similar sets were still being offered for sale at various online retailers the last time I checked. This sweet story, with its wonderfully expressive pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations, is one of my all-time favorites for sharing with little ones.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” written and illustrated by Eric Carle (Copyright 2001, Philomel Books division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers) is a giant board book edition of the 1969 timeless classic. When looking for books that will keep the attention of babies and toddlers, you really can’t go wrong with Eric Carle’s simple writing style and colorful collage illustrations. I’ve had the book shown in the photo for over 25 years. Although the carry handles at the top were removed long ago, this board book edition also came with a stuffed caterpillar toy that was just the right size for tiny hands to weave through specially cut holes in the over-sized pages of the story.

Goodnight Max the Brave

“Goodnight, Max the Brave” written and illustrated by Ed Vere (Copyright 2019, Sourcebooks, Inc.) is recent board book edition of the 2015 Puffin/Penguin Random House picture book, “Max at Night.” The story follows a sleepy Max past his bedtime on an adventure to say goodnight to the Moon. Although the text may be longer than the attention span of some (not all) babies and toddlers, the digital illustrations from pen, ink, and mixed media will have preschoolers tuned-in and turning pages just to see what Max will do next. I hope to see board book editions of the other books in the Max series.

If you have a favorite picture book that has a board book edition, I’d love to hear about it.

Happy Reading 😊

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES FOR E-READERS

If you’re like me, you’re looking for a few more books to read these days. One place you can’t look for them is at the library, because they’re all closed until further notice. These troubled times make me more grateful than ever for my e-reader devices. If you haven’t tried borrowing books on library-based reading apps like Libby and Hoopla (and many more), this would be a great time to put them to use. Thanks to technology, we can all continue to find and read books while still keeping our social distance. Here are a few of my picture book favorites for e-readers. Enjoy!

Waiting

“Waiting” written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes (Copyright 2015, Greenwillow Books division of HarperCollins Publishers) is both a Caldecott and Geisel Honor Book. At a time when we are all waiting patiently while watching the world from a distance, this book is perfection. It is the story of five toys who are expectantly waiting for wonderful things to happen as they sit on the windowsill and watch the world outside. The simplicity of the full-color art, created with watercolor paint, colored pencils, and brown ink, is complemented by an equally simple text, comprised of short sentences. I can’t think of a better age-appropriate example for helping young children understand this difficult concept.

Piglet and Papa

“Piglet and Papa” written by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Stephen Michael King (Copyright 2007, Abrams Books for Young Readers) is a sweet story about the love that is shared between a parent and child. When little Piglet plays too rough with her Papa and hurts him, he chases her away. Not sure how angry he truly is, she becomes afraid that he doesn’t love her anymore and visits the other farm animals for reassurance. This story uses fun, colorful artwork and a repetitive style of text that make little Piglet’s journey back to her Papa one that warms the heart.

Dancing Feet!

“Dancing Feet!” written by Lindsey Craig and illustrated by Marc Brown (Copyright 2010, Alfred A. Knopf imprint of Random House) is a fun, high-energy book that combines uniquely worded rhythmic text with collage illustrations that were created using hand-painted paper cut into primary shapes. Preschoolers will look forward to each page-turn as happy feet dance their way through this award-winning picture book.

One more note. . .some versions of picture e-books offer the option of a “read along” feature, allowing you to follow along with the story while listening to a professional narrator. It will even turn the pages for you as you read along, giving young readers another fun way to enjoy some of their favorite books.

Happy E-Reading 😊

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES ABOUT ST. PATRICK’S DAY

Every March 17th, the world celebrates the culture and heritage of Ireland while honoring the holiday’s name sake, Saint Patrick, for his part in bringing Christianity to the Irish people. While I was able to find a good number of older books written about this holiday, it didn’t appear to be quite as well represented in the current picture book market. To those of us who write, this is a call to action. Let’s get creative and write some books. Until that happens, here are some of my favorite St. Patrick’s Day picture books from years gone by. Enjoy!

SPD - Rockwell

“St. Patrick’s Day” written by Anne Rockwell and illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell (Copyright 2010, HarperCollins Children’s Books division of HarperCollins Publishers) is one of many book collaborations by this mother-daughter duo during their thirty years of working together. The colorful, kid-friendly illustrations are a perfect complement to this story about a classroom of students who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by learning and presenting the history and traditions of Ireland.

The Night Before SPD

“The Night Before St. Patrick’s Day” written by Natasha Wing and illustrated by Amy Wummer (Copyright 2009, Grosset & Dunlap division of Penguin Young Readers Group) is a funny rhyming book with cute illustrations about two siblings who decide to catch a leprechaun by setting traps the night before St. Patrick’s Day. In this edition from Wing’s best-selling “The Night Before. . .” series, readers are reminded of “The Night Before Christmas” as the leprechaun comes and goes, leaving a St. Patrick’s Day surprise at the end of the story.

Hooray for SPD

“Hooray for St. Patrick’s Day!” written by Joan Holub and illustrated by Paul Meisel (Copyright 2002, Puffin Books division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers) is a lift-the-flap rhyming book that celebrates things to do, make, and eat on St. Patrick’s Day. The first page challenges readers to find a leprechaun hidden in each scene, and preschoolers will especially enjoy the surprises behind the flaps that help present elements of the holiday. There is a simple glossary in the back of the book explaining words and phrases that might be new to young readers.

SPD - Gibbons

“St. Patrick’s Day” written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons (Copyright 1994, Holiday House) is a nonfiction picture book that gives more details about Saint Patrick’s life and legends that you will likely find in most other picture books about the holiday. Gail Gibbons style of writing and illustrating makes this book an educational tribute to St. Patrick, who dedicated his life to caring for the Irish people.

More St. Patrick’s Day picture books…

“Ten Lucky Leprechauns” written by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook and illustrated by Jay Johnson (Copyright 2012, Cartwheel Books imprint of Scholastic, Inc.) is a counting book told in rhyme with happy, color-filled illustrations. Repetitive lines in each sequence of pages combine with counting from one to ten leprechauns to create a true picture book treasure to share with preschoolers.

“What is St. Patrick’s Day” written by Elaine Landau (Copyright 2012, Enslow Elementary imprint of Enslow Publishers) is a nonfiction book using color photographs and simple text to teach children about the history and symbols of the holiday. Also included are a list of books and websites for further reading as well as instructions for a St. Patrick’s Day activity.

Happy Reading ~

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES TO SHARE WITH SOMEONE YOU LOVE

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m spreading some love with this month’s picture book favorites. From books whose characters include a little hedgehog and his mom, a young owl and his Grammy, a lonely porcupine, and a pair of silly spaghetti eating monkeys, love is shared and explained in ways that will both warm your heart and make you laugh. Enjoy!

Love You Always

“Love You Always” written by Frances Stickley and illustrated by Migy Blanco (Copyright 2019, Random House Children’s Books. Originally published by Nosy Crow Ltd.) is the story of little Hedgie the hedgehog and his mommy, who are taking a walk and sharing a conversation about the enduring love of a mother for her little one. After asking many questions, little Hedgie learns that “as long as skies are high above . . . there’s one thing that will never change, and that’s love.” Busy, color-filled illustrations are the perfect complement to this sweet rhyming story.

Love is Kind

“Love is Kind” written by Laura Sassi and illustrated by Lison Chaperon (Copyright 2018, Zonderkidz) follows Little Owl as he struggles to find a way to buy his Grammy a heart-shaped box of chocolates for her birthday. With each encounter, he shares by example the attributes of love as found in 1 Corinthians 13 of the Bible. At the end of his day, when all his attempts have failed, his Grammy explains to him that the love he shared with others along the way was a better gift to her than any chocolates would have been. Children will likely relate to the many feelings and choices Little Owl makes as the kid-friendly illustrations help to tell the story.

Elmore

“Elmore” written and illustrated by Holly Hobbie (Copyright 2018, Random House Children’s Books) is a beautifully illustrated story about a porcupine named Elmore who lives by himself and has trouble making friends because of his quills. After a visit from a wise old uncle, Elmore decides to give away some of his treasured quills to the other animals, suggesting they use them to write notes to their friends. In return, the animals appreciate Elmore, quills and all, and share the love found between friends through the notes they send him.

One of my favorites from years gone by…

“More Spaghetti I Say!” written by Rita Golden Gelman and illustrated by Jack Kent (Copyright 1977, Scholastic, Inc.) is laugh out loud fun. When Freddy wants to play, Minnie is too busy eating spaghetti. When Minnie has had too much spaghetti and begins to feel sick, Freddy takes her spaghetti away and soon discovers that he loves it too. This sweet, silly story, told in rhyming verse with simple illustrations, is a cautionary tale about the love of good food and the patience of a good friend. It was updated by Scholastic in 1992 as a Hello Reader! book with new illustrations by Mort Gerberg, but I still treasure my original copy from 1977. A note of advice . . . read it aloud, with feeling, to a child or to yourself, and try not to laugh.

Happy Valentine’s Day!