It’s not too late to get the perfect Valentine’s Day present for your favorite picture book reader. Here are ten picture-perfect choices.
Dog lovers who are book lovers know that almost no one writes nonfiction dog books like Dorothy Hinshaw Patent, author of “Made for Each Other: Why Dogs and People Are Perfect Partners.” This small picture book is aimed at older picture book readers, although younger readers will love the beautiful photographs by William Muñoz. The book is filled with all the nonfiction features teachers love to teach, like Contents (Part One: A Perfect Partnership; Part Two: The Science of Love; and Part Three: Sharing Our Lives), Resources for Young Readers (books, websites and videos with more information), Source Notes and Additional Sources (a bibliography of resources used for the information in the book), and an Index. Within the book’s pages is information ranging from how dogs differ from wolves and how they may have parted ways in the past to how dogs help us now by being our best friends, guiding us, protecting us, providing us with therapy, and just loving us. It’s a beautiful, completely true love story. (Crown Books for Young Readers)
“Elmore” by Holly Hobbie is the sweet story of a lonely porcupine who wanted nothing more than to have a friend. He wanted friends, but they thought he was too prickly to be around. He admitted that “It was true, if you got too close, you might get needled, nettled, prickled.” He didn’t mean it, it just happened. While his quills protected him, they also kept him from having friends. Then Elmore had an idea, and after he decided to share his treasured quills, he realized that he could have friends. At least from a friendly distance. Hobbie’s delicate but colorful illustrations and thoughtful text make this a pleasure to read to any youngster. And the message is beautiful, too. Even someone who is different may have much to offer others. (Random House Books for Young Readers)
“Mommy, Baby, and Me” by Linda Elovitz Marshall is the sweet — and often too true — tale of a dog and his best friend, Mommy. It’s Mommy and puppy together always until Mommy meets Daddy. Then puppy gets his own bed, and things get stranger. Mommy’s lap starts to disappear! And puppy laments that,
“Soon, there was no room for me. There was only room for Baby.”
Things were not going well for puppy. And baby made “too much noise, was way too stinky, and was not at all housebroken!” But as with all fairy tales and sweet stories, all’s well that ends well, puppy grows up and becomes a dog with doggy responsibilities (playing with the baby), and they all live happily ever after. Ged Adamson’s watercolor and pencil illustrations are definitely worthy of mention — they are bold with expressive faces and are sure to please everyone from baby to grandpa. (Peter Pauper Press, Inc.)
Two books filled with love and adorable animals are “Next to You: A Book of Adorableness” and “Warts and All: A Book of Unconditional Love” both by Lori Haskins Houran and illustrated by Sydney Hanson. Want to tell your favorite youngsters how much you love them in spite of any of the possibly less-than-adorable things that they do? Read “Warts and All” to them and shower them with kisses. Want to share how next to your lovely child, no other animal — no matter how cute and adorable and cuddly — comes close? Read “Next to You” to them, and they will understand. The books make a great set to give as a gift for a newborn baby, or for the one you love! (Albert Whitman & Company)
“When Pigs Fly” by James Burks is the story of brother and sister pigs Henry and Henrietta. Henry is determined to fly, and although his sister tells him pigs can’t fly, she sticks by him, and in the end, it’s Henrietta and her imagination that help Henry achieve his dream. This is a touching story about sibling love and support that is told with bright watercolor and ink illustrations and simple dialogue. Kids will love it, and parents will love the positive message that can be discussed with even young children. (Disney-Hyperion Books)
“The Perfect Pillow” by Eric Pinder and illustrated by Chris Sheban is a story about a little boy in a strange new room and a strange new bed. He just can’t get comfortable. When his parents are no help, Brody and his stuffed dragon Horst go out in search of a more comfortable bed. But after traveling from a squirrel nest to a cloud to a boat, he returns to his warm bedroom and realizes it’s safe and that Horst makes the best pillow. The illustrator adds a note of extra sweetness to the story with the faithful family dog who leaves the comfort of the parent’s room to follow Brody back to his bedroom and waits there for him and crawls into bed with him to keep him safe. (Disney-Hyperion Books)
“My Family Four Floors Up” by Caroline Stutson is a beautifully rhyming, beautifully diverse, filled-with-animals story about a family in an apartment building and what they do throughout one day. The repetition, the rhyme, and the colorful words (each color written in that color) all join to make this an extremely enjoyable read aloud. The very bright and colorful illustrations by Celia Krampien feature people of every color and beautifully depict both city and suburban landscapes. (Sleeping Bear Press)
“May I Come In?” by Marsha Diane Arnold features rain-drenched Raccoon who is afraid to be alone during a particularly nasty thunderstorm and makes his way around the forest asking to stay with his friends. But Possum, Quail, and Woodchuck’s abodes are too small for Raccoon. Finally, he reaches the home of Rabbit but finds it filled with little Rabbits. Rabbit welcomes him anyway, and in the end, all the animals realize the message the author is sending: “A kind heart will always make room for one more.” It’s a lesson that cannot be taught too often, and related to making sure that other children always feel welcome to join a group no matter what. (Sleeping Bear Press)
“Wordy Birdy” by Tammi Sauer is a humorous story of friendship even in the face of one very annoying bird. Everyone knows someone like Wordy Birdy — a person who talks and talks but does not — ever — listen. No matter how much Wordy Bird’s friends warn her about danger, she does not listen to them. Not a bit. But when Wordy Bird is in trouble, her friends don’t abandon her. They don’t tell her it’s her fault for not listening to them. They don’t say, “We told you so.” They just help. They are true friends. Does Wordy Bird learn her lesson? You be the judge. The illustrations by Dave Mottram are beautiful, and the faces of the animals are filled with emotion. Wordy Bird’s drawn in a way to make even the grumpiest reader smile, if just for a moment. This is yet another book with a wonderful message about friendship. (Doubleday Books for Young Readers)
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover books provided by the publishers for review purposes.