Celebrate Love & Friendship with These Must-Have Reads


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If Valentinus of Rome (canonized St. Valentine in the 5th Century) had never lived, we humans would surely have invented a day to celebrate the greatest of all virtues–LOVE. But recorded history includes Valentinus’ story and the date of his death on February 14, which, for centuries, has been memorialized as Valentine’s Day!

The commercial version of Valentine’s Day has us scrambling to buy flowers, chocolates, and sentimental greeting cards for loved ones—and perhaps helping our school-age children assemble their own sets of Valentine messages and bags of emoji-imprinted candy hearts to take to school. For those of you who would like to use the celebration of Valentine as a teachable moment, we have some reading suggestions—love stories for children, books that show the many faces of love and honor its many forms, among them kindness, affection, and compassion.

Our February book choices are an eclectic mix that includes stories of first crushes, of observations and discoveries that lead to a love of Nature and all that is plain sight, and a beautifully illustrated book that attempts to answer the existential question, What is Love? Please consider our February book list to be our Valentine’s gift to you, our readers. Enjoy the day with a book—about love!


Sardines of Love Written and Illustrated by Zurine Aguirre
This book was written as a tribute to Zurine Aguirre’s own grandparents, Lola and Lolo. It is about their love for each other, and for sardines. When Lola runs out of sardines, she goes off on an adventure to find some. Lolo is so sad that she is gone, he cries an ocean of tears, and floats away. Will they find each other? The sophisticated, retro illustrations help make this book sweet and silly at the same time. You and your children will be talking about what love really means, and what those in love will do for each other.

What is Love? by Mac Barnett, Illustrated by Carson Ellis
Love is hard to explain, especially to children. Sometimes love must be found by going out and looking for what it means to others, which is what the young main character of this book tries to do. He asks a fisherman, who replies, “Love is a fish.” Then he wanders all over, asking anyone and everyone. “Love is applause.” Says the actor. Each person has a vastly different answer to his question. Maybe there is no right answer, but instead a discussion about love, and how it is personal and unique to each of us. The watercolor art is worthy of framing, and portrays each character’s love superbly.


The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, Illustrated by Robert Lawson
This classic story, published in 1936, is about a bull that decides to be true to himself, mainly because of the unconditional love from his mother. Young Ferdinand doesn’t like to fight. He prefers relaxing in the meadows smelling flowers. An unfortunate encounter with a bee creates a misconception of Ferdinand’s personality to the bullfighting crowd in Madrid. As Ferdinand is placed in the arena, with the Matador ready to fight, he chooses instead to sit down and smell the flowers of the lady’s hair in the stands. The message that stands out the most in this story is the importance of the love, support and guidance from parents.

The Day I Became A Bird by Ingrid Chabbert, Illustrated by Raul Nieto Guridi
With poetic text and delicate line drawings, Chabbert tells the tale of a young boy who falls in love with a bird-loving girl in his class. The boy comes to school dressed as a bird to attract her attention, which then complicates his life and causes him to be bullied. The boy learns that we sometimes willingly undergo a change within ourselves in order to spend our time and emotions with another person. This story really shows that love, especially first love, can be as deep and agonizing as it is joyful.

Grades One & Two

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli, Illustrated by Paul Yalowitz
Solitary shoelace factory worker Mr. Hatch receives a Valentine card and box of candy with the words, “Somebody loves you.” This gesture touches him, moving him to then reciprocate to others he was once distant to, becoming a neighborhood favorite. But then the postman tells Mr. Hatch that the Valentine delivery was a mistake, causing him to question his new outgoing existence. Feeling unloved, Mr. Hatch soon returns to his former antisocial self. His friends and neighbors miss him, and show him in a big way that they all love him.

Grades Three-to-Five

Ten Beautiful Things by Molly Beth Griffin, Illustrated by Maribel Lechuga
Lily and her grandmother start a journey across Iowa in the car with a game in which they find ten beautiful things on the way. Lily is recovering from an implied loss and an uncertain future. Gram’s wisdom about finding beauty everywhere, even when it’s hard, helps the sad and anxious Lily to feel a bit better. Their list grows as they see a rural sunrise, a wind farm churning under pink clouds, and a thunderstorm breaking across the plains. When Gram tells Lily that their love for one another is the tenth beautiful thing, it is a tribute to the healing power of nature and love.

Middle School

Out of My Heart by Sharon Draper
Melody, a tween with cerebral palsy, convinces her parents to let her go to Camp Green Glades, a camp for kids with disabilities. It’s her first time away from home, and it is there that she makes friends that really understand her, and also has her first crush. The challenges that Melody and the campers face are sometimes funny, sometimes serious, but always help the characters in the story to grow closer. This is a story about friendship, courage, optimism, and love.

Photo: Stratford School


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