How Do You Love?: The Five Ways We Show We Care (Kellie Byrnes)

Hello friends and Happy Valentine’s Day! Our book today is How Do You Love?: The Five Ways We Show We Care, written by Kellie Byrnes and illustrated by Melina Ontiveros, a heartwarming and kid-friendly look at love languages.

How do we show the people that we love how we feel about them? Well, there are lots of ways! A comforting hug, a compliment on a new outfit, or a meal made with care. Maybe a surprise zoo trip! Or perhaps even helping someone out when they’re having a rough day. There are lots of ways to show our love for the special people in our lives – and plenty of opportunities to do so.

Wonderful. Taking the popular theory behind “the five love languages” – words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch – Byrnes takes a familiar adult concept and breaks it down into child-friendly language, in a way that encourages young readers to think about how they and the people around them might show love. Byrnes comes up with some great examples of each “language,” then uses an afterward to further explore these concepts in more detail (such as pointing out that physical touch should always be consensual, or quality time allows us to connect emotionally by giving undivided attention). Ontiveros’s cartoon illustrations are bright, colorful, and fit the theme perfectly, but what truly stands out is the diversity of her characters: a myriad of skintones, body types, hair textures, religions, abilities, LGBTQ+ identities, and more are given representation, and never in a way that feels exploitative. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I truly enjoyed this one from start to finish. This a fantastic way to talk to kids about love and how we can express it, and we highly recommend it – Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch (Eileen Spinelli)

Hello, friends! Part two of our special weekend reviews, and a great one for Valentine’s Day eve: Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch, written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Paul Yalowitz, a classic story of the good that one Valentine can do.

Lonely Mr. Hatch leads a very humdrum life: he goes to work at the shoelace factory, eats his lunch alone, buys the same two things at the same two shops on the way home, then goes to bed – day in and day out. That is, until the day the postman brings him a enormous box of chocolates! The card reads only: “Somebody loves you”. Ecstatic over the revelation of having a secret admirer, Mr. Hatch finds a pep in his step and a smile on his face. He shares the chocolate with coworkers and shakes up his routine. He connects with the shopkeepers and offers them help when they are in need of assistance. He bakes brownies and hosts picnics for the neighborhood. For weeks, he seems like a new man – that is, until the postman returns…

Genuinely sweet. Celebrating it’s 30th anniversary, Spinelli’s tale proves itself to have timeless appeal with a story about the importance and impact of small kindnesses. While Mr. Hatch’s first Valentine turns out to be the result of a mistake, it inspires him to find the self-esteem to reach out and show love to others, who return the sentiment in his time of need. It’s a classic theme and executed in a way that is truly heartwarming. Yalowitz’s illustrations have a nice use of color to show the rise and fall of Mr. Hatch’s self esteem, but do show their age a bit: most of the characters present as white with very few representations of diversity in any sense. The length is best for elementary readers, but JJ and I both enjoyed the touching story. This is a great way to explore the importance of kindness and expressing love to, and we liked it a lot. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

A Crankenstein Valentine (Samantha Berger)

Hello friends, and Happy Valentine’s Day! Our book today is A Crankenstein Valentine, written by Samantha Berger and illustrated by Dan Santat, a hilarious sendup of Valentine’s Day traditions.

Have you seen Crankenstein? Well, come Valentine’s Day, you can’t miss him. While other kids and grownups might love all the mushy-gushiness of Valentine’s Day, Crankenstein – a little boy turned green and sour by his crankiness – has only one thing to say: “YECHHHHHH!”. Valentines, flowers, hearts, hugs? Yech, yech, yech, and double yech! As he muddles through the day of love, Crankenstein is increasingly frustrated with the holiday’s tropes, culminating with his being forced to be part of the Valentine’s pageant! But just as he thinks that the day is over, he receives a Valentine himself, one delightfully in line with his feelings on the holiday.

Silly, subversive fun. While reading this book’s prequel, Crankenstein, might help a bit to establish the main character earlier, many kids will identify with the green-and-stone-faced boy’s absolute disdain for the holiday, and find his disgusted reactions at the sentimental trappings hilarious (JJ, for instance, descended into hysterical giggles at every “YECHHH!”). There are a few instances of children expressing romantic love, of which I am not a fan in picture books, but since Crankenstein’s reaction is so throughly anti-love, it didn’t offend me too much. I especially liked that, in the end, Crankenstein found a friend who seemed to hate the holiday as much as he; it’s nice that the final focus is on friendship over romance. Santat’s illustrations are as vibrant, dynamic, emotive, and engaging as ever, and the length was great. A wonderful Valentines story that breaks the mold and brings the laughs. Baby Bookworm approved!

Robot In Love (T. L. McBeth)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Robot In Love by T. L. McBeth, an adorably offbeat love story.

Robot starts every day the same: unplug himself from the wall, eat some bread, leave the house. But today is no ordinary day – today is the day he sees HER. She’s shiny, very quiet, and their connection is simply electric. Robot spends the next few days mooning over his new love, even spending a night carefully constructing her a bouquet of flowers from spare metal parts. But when he arrives at their usual meeting spot to present them to her – she’s not there! Broken-hearted, Robot searches everywhere for his lost love, to no avail. Will he ever be reunited with the object of his affection?

This was a fun twist on the classic he-meets-she that’s full of clever, kid-friendly comedy. While both the narration and dialogue are from Robot’s perspective, the narration is widely kept conversational while the dialogue is peppered with fun-to-read robot “language”: “does not compute!”, “error”, etc. The story is harmless fun, a tale of love that’s frivolous enough to allow the comedy to take the lead, but never so flippant that it appears mocking. The minimalist art is befitting the mechanical main character, and the palette of red, black, white, and mixtures thereof is bright and bold. The length was great, and JJ loved the robot, so this one is definitely Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine (Jonathan London)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine, written by Jonathan London and illustrated by Andrew Joyner, the latest in the delightful Duck and Hippo series.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, Duck is a little bummed to realize that she doesn’t have a valentine of her own – but that quickly transitions into a fun idea! Stealthily sneaking around town, she leaves anonymous invitations for her best friends – Hippo, Turtle, Pig, and Elephant – to meet their secret Valentine in the park at 4 o’clock. The friends are delighted and excitedly prepare to meet up. When they all arrive, however, they are surprised to see each other, and no one else waiting! They puzzle for a moment until Duck appears, presenting them with a picnic and some good company – after all, the best Valentines are friends!

Very cute! All the hallmarks of the previous Duck and Hippo books are back, from the innocent, playful storyline and dialogue to Joyner’s classic storybook-inspired illustrations. There’s an odd moment in which the reader gets the sense of Pig being slightly catfished by her “secret admirer” – she sings “I’m so in looooove!” as she prepares for the meetup – but otherwise the story is gentle, and sends a nice message about the importance of appreciating our friendships. The length was great, and JJ loved it – Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this books was provided the The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the author in exchange for an honest review.)