The trials and tribulations of Valentine's Day begin early enough in life, and we certainly wouldn't want to traumatize children unnecessarily. We're simply using the approach of February 14 as an excuse to showcase five picture books that celebrate love and friendship, whether parent-child, boy-girl, monster-friend or hedgehog-hedgehog. If you missed Shelf's feature on which charming children's titles booksellers recommend for adults to give other adults on Valentine's Day, you can find it here. Enjoy!
For Babies and Toddlers
One More Tickle!: Guess How Much I Love You Puppet Book by Sam McBratney, illus. by Anita Jeram (Candlewick, $17.99, board book, 9780763688196, 12p., ages 0-3, February 9, 2016)
Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare, characters from the tried-and-true Guess How Much I Love You, are back in One More Tickle!, an oversized board book with a deliciously soft, long-eared rabbit puppet that pops up through the center of it, ready to tickle a wee, giggling reader. "Are you ticklish?" asked Little Nutbrown Hare. "Can I tickle your ears and see?" "You can try," said Big Nutbrown Hare. "Tickle, tickle, tickle!"(This is the grownup's cue to tickle kids who like tickling.) Noses, chins, underarms (eek) and toes are next, followed by a goodnight kiss.
Love Monster and the Last Chocolate by Rachel Bright (FSG, $17.99, hardcover, 9780374346904, 32p., ages 2-4, December 15, 2015)
First there was British author-illustrator Rachel Bright's Love Monster, then Love Monster and the Perfect Present. Now, the scruffy, bug-eyed Love Monster is back from vacation, only to find a mysterious purple box on his doorstep. Chocolates! He salivates as he imagines what tasty flavors might be inside: Walnut Whippy, Cherry Cloud or Double Toffee Diamond. Should he share them with his friends? Yes, he should. Bright achieves her wonderfully rough textures with a solar-etching technique, using UV light to make printer plates. This tasty read-aloud morsel has just the right amount of sweetness.
Hedgehugs by Steve Wilson & Lucy Tapper (Holt, $16.99, hardcover 9781627794046, 32p. ages 3-5, December 15, 2015)
How do you hug a hedgehog? Carefully. Hedgehugs features two hedgehogs, Horace and red-bowed Hattie, who are best friends and want to hug each other, but can't: "They are just too spiky!" They roll in the snow in the winter (too cold), squeeze into logs in the spring (too bumpy), stick strawberries on their spikes in the summer (too sticky), and try leaf barriers in the fall (too scratchy). Nothing works until they slip into a couple of socks they find on a clothesline... and that feels just right. (It's suggested that this is where all those single socks go when they go missing.) The cute, mixed-pattern collage-style art suits this cozy guide to hugging while spiky.
The Red Hat by David Teague, illus. by Antoinette Portis (Disney-Hyperion, $16.99, hardcover, 9781423134114, 40p., ages 4-6, December 8, 2015)
Billy Hightower lives on top of the world's tallest building, above even the clouds, with only the wind for company. (The wind is illustrated on every spread with wavy lines in a pleasingly glinting sheen.) Then one day a girl in a red hat appears on a nearby building. Billy tries to shout to her, and to send her notes via paper airplane and kite... he even tries to fly to her using a blanket, but the wind thwarts his every effort--almost. Antoinette Portis's (Wait) artful illustrations--mostly blue, white and black with strategic pops of red--make readers feel the power of the wind, and the artist's marvelously varied perspectives on the city are suitably dizzying. Boy meets girl for a happy ending... or, actually, a beginning.
For Romantics of All Ages
Madame Eiffel: The Love Story of the Eiffel Tower by Alice Brière-Haquet, trans. by Noelia Hobeika, illus. by Csil (Little Gestalten, $19.95, hardcover, 9783899557558, 32p., ages 4-adult, November 1, 2015)
This French picture book, one of the New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2015, is a fairy tale of sorts, a valentine to Paris's Eiffel Tower. The story begins: "Eiffel is a happy engineer; young, successful, and in love." His wife, Cathy, the "prettiest girl in Paris," has a thirst for life and, with intricate thin black lines, the opening spread shows the cooing couple in a hot-air balloon over the city. When Cathy gets sick, it seems there is no hope... until Eiffel builds a tower, the tower, for her. When she sees the glorious Eiffel Tower, "Cathy's cheeks turn rosy,/ her eyes sparkle again."