As your children exchange little candy hearts that say “U R SWEET” and Minecraft Valentine cards, it’s the perfect time to reflect on love. What does it look like? What does it sound like? How do I show it? What does it feel like?
Whether it is love for humankind, a classmate, a parent, a child, an elderly neighbor, or even a mailbox, these books offer lots to ponder on the subject. Here is a list of books to enjoy with your child.
1. Plant a Kiss, written by Amy Krause Rosenthal and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Using her spade, a young girl digs a hole in the ground and then bends down to “plant a kiss.” Like a tender gardener, she waters it, makes sure it gets plenty of sun, and patiently waits. Of course, when you plant a seed of love or kindness or generosity, it grows. The little girl wants to share it, but the other children worry she will run out. She doesn’t care. When she finally runs out, she goes back to discover her kiss has bloomed again.
The language is simple. Each page contains no more than a few words and the next page rhymes (think Sheep in a Jeep). The drawings are simple—people, some earth and props, plain white background. But the overall effect is magical.
2. The Boy Who Grew Flowers, written by Jen Wojtowicz and illustrated by Steve Adams
Every full moon, Rink Bowagon sprouts flowers all over his body. Needless to say, this makes him a little unpopular at school. One day, a new girl shows up, and Rink immediately likes her. Angelina is plain with one leg shorter than the other and a flower behind her ear. She does not understand why the children ignore Rink. One day, the teacher announces there will be a dance on Saturday. Rink invites Angelina, but realizes she can’t dance because of her legs. I will not give away the rest of the story, but it is a beautiful act of kindness and a celebration of all that makes us unique and wonderful.
3. Hair for Mama, written by Kelly A. Tinkham and illustrated by Amy June Bates
Eight-year-old Marcus’s mama has cancer and when she begins to lose her hair, he promises to get her more. As his mama undergoes chemotherapy, Marcus observes that she can no longer appreciate the fall colors like she usually does, and he thinks getting hair for her will make her better.
After several attempts to get hair for his mama, he ends up at the barber shop. I cried when I read this book. It beautifully captures the innocence of an eight-year-old boy who loves his mama and will do anything for her.
4. Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge, written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Julia Vivas
Wilfred lives next door to an “old people’s home.” The four year old takes a shine to Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper because she has four names just like him. When he learns that she has trouble remembering, he sets out to help her, even though he doesn’t quite know what that means. This is a sweet story about the love between young and old.
5. Hug Machine, written and illustrated by Scott Campbell
How do we show love? Well, sometimes we show it by hugging. And this little boy has a lot of love to share. This book reminds us that love is something that is inside of us and when we are filled with love, everyone and everything in our paths receives it. After reading this book, you will want to hug the first person (or mailbox) you see.
6. Papa, Do You Love Me? , written by Barbara M. Joosse and illustrated by Barbara Lavallee
After a visit to Kenyan and Ugandan schools, the author was moved by the Massai and the tenderness they showed their children. This book reflects the culture and reminds us that love is unconditional.
7. All the Things I Love About You, written and illustrated by LeUyen Pham
All the things I love about this book:
- It’s about a mother’s love for her energetic, adventurous, messy son
- The combination of pen, ink and digital art and the beautiful color palette
- The little boy’s expressive face
- The humor
8. Love is a Good Thing to Feel, written by Barbara Joosse and illustrated by Jennifer Plecas
This charming book is about a little girl’s affection for her stuffed rabbit, Squeezie. Using text and speech bubbles, the author expresses how love feels—“It makes a party in your heart.” Love “makes everything a little bit better” like “double-stomping in the rain.” But she also addresses sadness, fear, anger and jealousy. With love, we can handle all of these emotions.
9. The I Love You Book, written and illustrated by Todd Parr
With Parr’s signature bold primary colors the author conveys the unconditional love a parent feels for a child: sleeping sweetly or awake in the middle of the night; brave or afraid; stinky or clean.
10. An Awesome Book of Love!, written and illustrated by Dallas Clayton
Rather than an ode to love, this is a shout-it-from-the-rooftops proclamation of love. The illustrations and even the font are whimsical works of art. The author starts with different scenarios in which he doesn’t have his true love, but then he writes, “…I’m aglow with a smile on my face when I wonder what magic you’ll make of this place…” From this point on, the proclaiming begins.