My Family Valentine

When I was growing up, Valentine’s Day was the biggest holiday going. The Valentine’s Day Peacock would administer the annual treasure hunt, hiding construction paper hearts around the house, each with a different clue on it, in Latin, and it fell to me and my sisters to hunt them down, translating one to lead to the next, and so on. Each of us was assigned a different color heart (lest they get confused) and as we grew older, the clues became more difficult and more plentiful. The trail invariably ended with particular paydirt: a cellophane-wrapped, heart-shaped box of chocolates and a pair of pink socks. I believe this went on all through our high school years (though my sister swears it was the Valentine’s Day Aardvark, so my memory may not be especially dependable) and was, even as a teen, a sweet, resonant tradition. To me, Valentine’s day will always be a holiday about family, more than romance, and so I offer you a bevy of picture books about family love, in its infinite variety, as my valentine.

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina by Monica Brown,  illustrated by Sara Palacios, Children’s Book Press, 2011

Little Owl Lost by Chris Haughton, Candlewick, 2010

The Dog Who Belonged to No One, by Amy Hest, illustrated by Amy Bates, Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2008

All Kinds of Families, by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Marc Boutavant, Little, Brown, 2009

My People by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Charles R. Smith, Atheneum, 2009

I’ll See You in the Morning, by Mike Jolley, illustrated by Mique Moriuchi, Roaring Brook, 2008

Monday is One Day by Arthur Levine, illustrated by Julian Hector, Scholastic, 2011

A House in the Woods by Inga Moore, Candlewick, 2011

The Family Book by Todd Parr, Little Brown, 2003

In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco, Philomel, 2009

The Schmutzy Family, by Madelyn Rosenberg, illustrated by Paul Meisel, Holiday House, 2012

Mad at Mommy by Komako Sakai, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2010

marisollittle owl lostdog who belonged to no one all kinds of families     my people ill see you in the morningmonday is one dayhouse in the woodsfamily bookin our mothers houseschmutzy family    mad at mommy

Gifts of Information

Our last stop on the holiday book recommendation train includes some books about real, actual people and things.

Chuck Close: Face Book

Chuck Close

Abrams, 2012

The famous portraitist tells his remarkable story, overcoming severe dyslexia, prosoagnosia (the inability to recognize faces) and paraplegia to become one of the most celebrated artists alive in an interactive book brimming with stunning detail. A class of fifth grade students in Brooklyn asks him questions, and his candid, matter-of-fact responses give us a picture of the artist just as clear and impressive as the portraits he paints of others. Exquisite, tactile and inspirational.

Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon

Steve Sheinkin

Macmillan, 2012

In this un-put-downable record of the Manhattan Project historian Sheinkin weaves three distinct narratives into an utterly compelling page-turner about spies, science and sabotage with abundant facts and indelible lessons. It’s always a pleasure to follow an enthusiast on a literary exploration, and the velocity of this particular journey makes it is especially exciting. Gripping, informative and scrupulous.

Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac

Anita Silvey

Macmillan, 2012

For the children’s-book-loving adult on your list, this treasure trove by noted critic Anita Silvey makes a different recommendation for every day of the year and comes overflowing with corollary tidbits of fascination. Look for Silvey’s book-a-day for more suggestions and more fun.  Erudite, expert and comprehensive.