Posted on February 4, 2016 at 6:00 am
My favorite kinds of picture books about love are the ones that transcend romance and/or Valentine’s Day to say something far broader and universal about love, affection, friendship, and family. Here are some fresh new arrivals that do exactly that:
By Vivian French; Illustrated by Angela Barrett
This gorgeous retelling of an old fairy tale takes place in an imaginary coastal town that suggests the watery hues and distinctive architecture of Venice. A king and queen, realizing that their daughter Lucia will soon be of marriageable age, promise her hand to whomever can show them the most wonderful thing in the world. The suitors line up, each with verifiably wonderful things to show—a dog doing card tricks, a miniature giraffe, a tabletop Egyptian pyramid—but none are what the king and queen are looking for.
In the meantime, Lucia explores her magnificent city with her working class friend, Salvatore, who knows without a doubt that the most wonderful thing in the world is Lucia herself. Although there’s a lot of text here for the average picture book, Vivian French’s ornate prose is the perfect match for Angela Barrett’s evocative Edwardian-era inspired illustrations.
By Rachel Bright
Love Monster and the Last Chocolate is the most valentine-y of the bunch, in which Love Monster finds a heart-shaped box of chocolates on his doorstep. Torn by whether or not to share them with his friends (who might leave him the ickiest piece or none at all), he holes up inside with the chocolates until a “queasy-squeezy feeling in his heart” pushes him back outside. Love Monster is surprised to find that his friends are out there waiting and that he really doesn’t mind sharing after all. Bright’s thick outlines and oversized images will appeal especially to toddlers and preschoolers but also to anyone who shares their chocolates in a state of high ambivalence!
By Jory John; Illustrated by Benji Davies
The perfect book for extrovert/introvert pairs—whether siblings, best friends, or partners—I Love You Already! opens with Duck and Bear planning their respective weekends. As Bear readies his teapot, books, and chair for a quiet morning of listening to the radio, reading, and journaling alone, Duck excitedly highlights passages in his new book, 101 Walks to Take With Bears. When Duck knocks on Bear’s door all excited to take a walk, Bear employs every trick in the book to put Duck off—saying “no”, hiding behind furniture—but ends up reluctantly walking with his friend. Their conversation as they walk underscores the mismatch between them but not their affection. When Duck has a mishap, Bear both saves the day and shows his friend he really does care. Cheery colors and a friendly, slightly retro look make this a great pick for preschoolers and even K-3.
By Emma Chichester Clark
As anyone who works with me will happily tell you, I love my dog (a chihuahua-poodle-Chinese crested mix with terrier tendencies) to an often ridiculous degree. Seriously. It’s bad. Love is My Favorite Thing is a book about a similar kind of dog (a whippet-poodle-Jack Russel mix) whose owners love her with a similarly unbridled affection. Plum loves lots of things—sticks, the neighbors, treats, walkies, throw pillows, and… stealing ice cream. When that last item drastically fails to impress her owners one day, she is depicted sitting alone in a very dark place. Anyone who loves a dog will recognize her anxious, “I’m in trouble” expression. Eventually, Plum joyously reunites with her owners, who of course never stopped loving her. Clark’s illustrations are kinetic and charming, bringing to mind the look of picture books from the 1950s and 1960s, and Plum is based on a real-life canine heroine, whose adventures can be followed on Clark’s Plumdog blog.