February 4 – Get Ready for Valentine’s Day

About the Holiday

Love is in the air! Love for family, friends, and our special valentines. Begun as a religious feast day, Valentine’s Day became a day of romance with the bloom of courtly love during the 14th century. In England during the 18th century, those in love began showing their affections by giving flowers and candy and making valentine’s cards. Now, Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest holidays on the calendar and a favorite of adults and kids alike. 

Love, Violet

Written by Charlotte Sullivan Wild | Illustrated by Charlene Chua

 

Out of all the kids in her class, Violet thought only one “raced like the wind. Only one had a leaping laugh. Only one made [her] heart skip. Mira.” Every day, Violet dreamed of “astounding Mira with heroic feats,” of “bringing her treasures” and of all the adventures and fun they could have playing pirates, astronauts, knight and princess, and more. But whenever Mira asked her to play or wondered what she was drawing, Violet became shy and ran away.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2022, text copyright Charlotte Sullivan Wild, 2022. Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers.

But on the day before Valentine’s Day, Violet had an idea. She made a glittery valentine for Mira and signed it “Love, Violet.” She dreamed that this might be the start of their adventures together. Before leaving for school, Violet tucked the valentine under her lucky white cowgirl hat. On the way, she heard other kids teasing each other about their valentines, and when Carlos asked Violet if she’d made someone a special card, Violet blushed and ran off, holding tightly to her hat.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2022, text copyright Charlotte Sullivan Wild, 2022. Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers.

Suddenly, Mira raced up to her and complimented her on her hat. “Snow sparkled on Mira’s eyelashes. Mira was magnificent.” Violet thought her valentine was not nearly good enough. With her heart pounding “like a hundred galloping horses,” Violet dashed away. All during class she worried whether she could actually give Mira the valentine and if Mira would want it anyway. Mostly, she worried that they’d never have their adventures.

When it was finally time to exchange valentines, Violet gave out all of her cards – except one. Standing next to the coat rack, Violet slowly began to lift her hat. But all at once, Mira appeared, causing Violet to jump, crash into Mira, and fall to the ground amid a pile of coats and scarves. The other kids laughed. Instead of apologizing and handing Mira her card as she wanted to, Violet rushed away again.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2022, text copyright Charlotte Sullivan Wild, 2022. Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers.

Alone at recess, Violet lay on the ground and made a snow angel. She’d never be able to face Mira now. Just then, however, she heard “a laugh like leaping horses,” and she jumped up. She realized that only one person had “praised her hat…hadn’t laughed when she fell…had ever asked her to play horses.” It struck her that maybe “Mira wanted to be her valentine.” Violet ran to find Mira, but on her way a gust of wind picked up her hat and her valentine. The glittery heart landed right in where kids were playing.

When Mira heard Violet’s anguished cry, she ran over to see what was wrong. Violet showed her the ruined valentine she had made for her. Mira thought it was still beautiful, and she “tucked a torn bit into her cap.” Then Mira took a locket out of her pocket and gave it to Violet. When she opened it, Violet found a small heart on one side and a purple violet on the other. “‘Want to go on an adventure?’ asked Violet. ‘Yes!’ cried Mira.” And hand-in-hand they ran off – together.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2022, text copyright Charlotte Sullivan Wild, 2022. Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers.

Charlotte Sullivan Wild’s emotion-filled story of a girl-girl crush sweetly and realistically portrays the heart-pounding and nerve-wracking feelings of first love. As Violet tries to pluck up the courage to give Mira her valentine, kids will be rooting for her as events and her own fears threaten to derail her dreams of adventuring with Mira. Clues along the way hint at Mira’s reciprocating feelings, but the final exchange of valentines will melt readers’ hearts. Wild’s evocative vocabulary, beautiful phrasing, and natural dialogue make the story a rich read aloud, and her depiction of the adventures Violet dreams of as well as Mira’s concerned and hopeful attention to Violet create a warm and universal friendship story as well.

Charlene Chua reveals all of the hopes, dreams, and angst that go into Violet’s valentine for Mira in her lovely and poignant illustrations. Snapshots of the adventures Violet longs to have with Mira are drawn with the excitement and vivid imagination kids bring to the games they play. As Violet creates her valentine, readers can see how much work and thought she puts into it as paper, glitter, and other supplies lay strewn around her. This portrayal accentuates the disappointment Violet feels when her card meets its fate under the stampeding kids as well as Mira’s delighted reaction upon receiving it. Throughout the story, Chua invites kids to experience and empathize with Violet’s rollercoaster of emotions and mishaps on the way to discovering that Mira has been thinking about Violet too.

A joy-filled story of a crush between two queer girls and their courage to express their feelings to and for each other, Love, Violet is a moving, age-appropriate way to celebrate love on Valentine’s Day or any day you’d like to share your heart. Love, Violet is also a reassuring and affirming invitation for all children to discuss their own feelings with parents or other caregivers. The book is highly recommended for home bookshelves and is a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8 (and up)

Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2022 | ISBN 978-0374313722

Discover more about Charlotte Sullivan Wild and her books on her website.

To learn more about Charlene Chua, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Love, Violet Video and Author Story Time 

Author Charlotte Sullivan Wild, illustrator Charlene Chua, and a few other kidlit authors chipped in to make this video about Love, Violet, first crushes, and queer childhood that’s a perfect resource for educators and parents. Start out with listening to Charlotte Sullivan Wild read Love, Violet!

Get Ready for Valentine’s Day Activities

Valentine Activity Sheets

 

Have fun with these printable Valentine’s Day activities!

Share Your Heart! Valentine | Funny Valentine! | Love, Violet Coloring Page

You can find Love, Violet at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 25 – Opposite Day

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About the Holiday

It’s Opposite Day! If you hear that the sky’s blue, it’s probably gray, if you’re told dinner’s yucky, that’s a compliment, and if your boss says that report is due today—well, you better finish it because not everyone plays along. Kids are especially fond of today’s holiday, and why not? Challenging yourself to think differently is fun! Of course there’s one emotion that can make us act a little turned upside down and backwards every day—as you’ll see in today’s book!

When an Elephant Falls in Love

Written by Davide Cali | Illustrated by Alice Lotti

 

“When an elephant falls in love, he does many foolish things.” He takes unusual risks and hides when he sees the apple of his eye. Instead of sloughing off in the hygiene department, he “takes a bath every day, and even washes behind his ears.” Even though he knows it’s better to eat nutritious foods, there’s that yummy dessert in the fridge that calls to him.

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Image copyright Alice Lotti, 2014, text copyright, 2014. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

While his appearance never seemed to concern him before, now “he dresses with care” even though deciding which tie to wear is difficult. Letters to his beloved get written and then crumpled up and tossed away. And his work is abandoned in favor of “staring at the clouds for hours and hours.”

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Image copyright Alice Lotti, 2014, text copyright, 2014. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

When he gathers his courage, the elephant in love will get close to his loved one—well, close enough to leave flowers, but not so close that he stays after ringing the bell. Sometimes that happy, in-love feeling turns into sadness when the elephant thinks, “‘If only she knew I existed!’” There comes a day, however, when it all comes together—the natty dressing, the nice, clean scent, the words in the letters, and those flowers that are discovered before the elephant has fully disappeared. What happens then? “It’s love!”

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Copyright Alice Lotti, 2014, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Davide Cali’s sweetly honest look at what it’s like to fall in love—for the first time or any time—will charm young readers and resonate with adults. The story is enchanting in its unapologetic presentation of the “foolish” things the elephant does—all things that are just part of growing up. Readers will see that with a few steps forward (and a few steps back), they will achieve their heart’s desire.

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Image copyright Alice Lotti, 2014, text copyright, 2014. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Alice Lotti’s little boulder of an elephant is as adorable as they come. With a tiny dot of an eye and simple lines accenting his ears, toes, and trunk, the elephant expressively goes about his days with her on his mind. Lotti’s white background highlights the elephant as he walks a tightrope holding a tiny pink umbrella, showers himself while immersed in a claw-foot bathtub, and searches the mirror for the answer between the green and orange tie. Lotti’s color palette is fresh and vibrant, and her clean lines give the illustrations a sophisticated look. The elephant’s beautifully textured, mottled hide lends a soft vulnerability to her sensitive pachyderm. Readers will have fun spotting the little yellow bird that is the elephant’s constant companion, a special cloud floating into view, and the flowers that bring the two elephants together.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1452147277

Learn more about Alice Lotti and view a portfolio of her artwork on her website.

Opposite Day Activity

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Fall in Love with Dot-to-Dots

 

Dot-to-Dot pictures offer a little bit for everyone—a little mystery, a little counting, a little bit to color, and a lot of fun! Since it’s Opposite Day, why not work from the last number to the first in this printable Fall in Love with Dot-to-Dots.

Picture Book Review

August 23 – It’s Back to School Month

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About the Holiday

A lot can happen over the summer.  Going on vacation can give new perspectives; a growth spurt means new clothes and shoes; and a little more maturity can cause unfamiliar feelings. It’s all enough to make a student’s heart race when crossing the classroom threshold on that first day. Sometimes, though, when looking around at all of the known and new faces, that little flutter of the heart can be…love.

The Day I Became a Bird

Written by Ingrid Chabbert | Illustrated by Raúl Nieto Guridi

 

On the first day of school a little boy sees Sylvia and falls instantly in love. At home he draws picture after picture of her. Although the boy only has eyes for Sylvia, she doesn’t see him. Instead, the boy says, “Sylvia is a bird lover. She can’t bear to see them living in cages. She quietly observes them in the wild and gently cares for them when they are injured.”

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Image copyright Raúl Nieto Guridi, 2016, text copyright Ingrid Chabbert, 2016. Courtesy of Kids Can Press

Everything she does and wears is somehow associated with birds. Even “her voice sounds like birdsong.” The boy has lost all interest in his toys, the sports he plays, and all of his old pursuits. He thinks differently about birds now, too. One day he decides “to dress as a bird.” He constructs a costume with glistening feathers “like the ones you see in the forest in summer.” When he puts it on he feels handsome. In the costume he dreams of flying with Sylvia to the top of the Rocky Mountains or a pyramid.

In school he doesn’t care if the other kids stare and giggle. And even though it’s hard to walk, play soccer, and climb trees, he doesn’t want to remove his costume. He is a bird. One afternoon, the boy says, “I come face to face with Sylvia. And finally our eyes meet.” Sylvia approaches and takes off the boy’s costume. “My heart is beating a hundred miles an hour,” he relates. “In the sky, I see a flock of birds take flight.” Sylvia gives him a long hug.

Standing completely still, the boy doesn’t know how to react. He knows he’s not a bird anymore, but still, he feels as if he’s flying.

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Image copyright Raúl Nieto Guridi, 2016, text copyright Ingrid Chabbert, 2016. Courtesy of Kids Can Press

Ingrid Chabbert’s enchanting revelation of first love encompasses in its spare text all the obsessive but ultimately freeing power of this universal emotion. While in the midst of his “normal” life, the boy’s world is suddenly transformed when he spies Sylvia. Leaving his toys behind, he chooses Sylvia’s bird’s eye view. Likewise, when Sylvia sees the narrator, she allows her birds to take wing and considers boys—or at least one boy—in a whole new light. Chabbert’s use of first-person narration reinforces the intimate nature of love and the idea that when love is right, being “captured” is a most liberating experience.

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Image copyright Raúl Nieto Guridi, 2016, courtesy of Kids Can Press

The themes of Chabbert’s story are so movingly rendered by Raúl Nieto Guridi’s simple, monochromatic line drawings. Although the boy states that “one morning” he decided to dress as a bird, from the first day when the boy falls in love with Sylvia—gazing at her wistfully while her eyes are instead trained at the sky or cast down at her chalk drawings—his costume begins to take shape. As it comes together, its wire skeleton resembles a bird cage, suggesting so many ways in which we may feel trapped by our emotions, our things, even changes in life.

When the boy dons the costume and begins to navigate the world in an unfamiliar way, readers will understand that he is no longer the boy he was, but neither is he a real bird. It is this unique creature that Sylvia responds to when, through holes in the costume where feathers are missing, she sees not the bird, but the boy. So it is that into everyone’s life there come people—or perhaps one particular person—with whom all costumes and cages are discarded, and we soar.

The Day I Became a Bird is a quiet beauty that gets to the core of what it means to give your heart to someone else. It would make a wonderful and touching addition to home libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Kids Can Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1771386210

Watch this The Day I Became a Bird book trailer!

Back to School Month Activity

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Let’s Study Together! Coloring Page

 

Going back to school means getting back with friends! Grab your colored pencils, markers, or crayons and enjoy this Let’s Study Together! Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review