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The love you show your children this Valentine's Day doesn't have to be all hearts and flowers and chocolate.
It might be a ray of light when she's surrounded by darkness. Or burned toast made by someone well intentioned but rushed. Or maybe your love is as drippy and sweet as the jelly side a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
No matter what flavor of love you want to share, here are some books sure to please your little valentines.
- 1. “My Heart,” by Corinna Luyken, $13 (usually $18), Amazon
Corinna Luyken's “My Heart” is a visual poem that acknowledges the times when a child's heart is cloudy or broken or a whisper, but ends with a sunny sense of ownership of those feelings. Hunt for hidden hearts on each page.
- 2. “Love, Z,” by Jessie Sima, $13 (originally $18), Amazon
Robot Z finds a message in a bottle that sends him on a quest to find out what love means in "Love, Z," a heartwarming new book from Jessie Sima.
- 3. “Love,” by Matt de la Peña and Loren Long, $15 (originally $18), Amazon
“Love” celebrates love even in times of difficulty and darkness, and made waves for its imagery, including a child huddling under a piano while parents fight. But Matt de la Peña believes we shouldn’t shield children from darkness.
“I’m just so moved by the truth and reality that I felt like the poem was empty until I acknowledged that adversity exists in this world, and as a matter of fact, if we acknowledge the adversity or even elements of darkness, I feel like love can be even more powerful,” de la Peña told TODAY.
- 4. “Pecan Pie, Baby,” by Jacqueline Woodson and Sophie Blackall, $8-$14, Amazon
When Mom's pregnant, everyone is talking about that “ding-dang baby.” “The whole book is about how much the mother still loves the first child more than anything in the world,” de la Peña said.
- 5. “A Chair for My Mother,” by Vera B. Williams, $7-$16, Amazon
A mother and daughter lose everything in a fire, so they save all their change to buy a new chair for the mother. “That love between a daughter and her single mother is pretty amazing,” de la Peña said.
- 6. “The Littlest Things Give the Loveliest Hugs,” by Mark Sperring and Maddie Frost, $13 (usually $18), Amazon
The sweet, rhyming text celebrates all the little creatures (like yours) that are “ever so clever at giving a hug.”
- 7. “Hello, Love,” by Taro Miura, $6, Amazon
How do animals greet each other? You might want to make like a fish with your toddler and touch noses.
- 8. “I Need a Hug,” by Aaron Blabey, $13 (usually $15), Amazon
Porcupine can't catch a break in his search for a hug, until he finds a snake in need of a kiss.
- 9. “If Animals Said I Love You,” by Ann Whitford Paul and David Walker, $7-$17, Amazon
Another sweet board book imagines all the ways animals might say “I love you” like we do.
- 10. “A Hug Is for Holding Me,” by Lisa Wheeler and Lisk Feng, $13, Amazon
A look around the natural world shows all kinds of hugs that feel like home.
- 11. “I'll Love You Till the Cows Come Home,” by Kathryn Cristaldi and Kristyna Litten, $15 (usually $18), Amazon
These cows are coming back from Mars, so the love in this whimsical rhyming story will have to last awhile.
- 12. “Robot in Love,” by T.L. McBeth, $13 (usually $18), Amazon
The little robot protagonist falls for a shiny beautiful stranger, but will he be able to work up the courage to talk to her?
- 13. “Dear Girl,” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Paris Rosenthal and Holly Hatam, $11 (usually $18), Amazon
Amy Krouse Rosenthal wrote “Dear Girl” with her daughter, Paris, before she died of ovarian cancer last year. Rosenthal has a minor specialty in love and published the heartbreaking essay, “You May Want to Marry My Husband,” shortly before her death.
- 14. “I Wish You More,” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Tom Lichtenheld, $8 (usually $15), Amazon
Rosenthal's sweet ode “I Wish You More” wishes readers more hugs than ughs and more snowflakes than tongue.
- 15. “This Is Not a Valentine,” by Carter Higgins and Lucy Ruth Cummins, $12 (usually $15), Amazon
This book swears it’s not a valentine, because it trades hearts and flowers for drippy glue, paper planes and the jelly half of a peanut butter sandwich (which makes it that much more special).
- 16. “Love, Mama,” by Jeanette Bradley, $10 (usually $17), Amazon
Saying goodbye to Mama is tough, but a letter makes all the difference in this comforting tale of love that can cross any distance.
- 17. “Love, Triangle,” by Marcie Colleen and Bob Shea, $10 (usually $18), Amazon
Geometry comes to life in this sweet story about friends who get bent out of shape.
- 18. “You Are My Sunshine,” by Sandra Magsamen, $6, Amazon
The classic song is even sweeter on a lap with a plush sunshine finger puppet.
- 19. “I Love You Already,” by Jory John and Benji Davies, $17 (usually $18), Amazon
Duck just wants cranky Bear to like him. It may surprise them both that he already does.
- 20. “Won't You Be My Kissaroo?” by Joanne Ryder and Melissa Sweet, $7, Amazon
- 21. “Love Is,” by Diane Adams and Claire Keane, $10 (originally $16), Amazon
A little girl takes in a duckling and learns what love is — from noisy midnight feedings to sensing when the time is right to fly the nest. It might resonate as much with parents as their kids.
- 22. “XO, Ox: a Love Story,” by Adam Rex and Scott Campbell, $17, Amazon
Ox is in love with a gazelle, but her form letter reply shows this romance is very one-sided in a funny, epistolary picture book.
- 23. “Words and Your Heart,” by Kate Jane Neal, $13 (originally $17), Amazon
This is an ode to the power of words and how to use them to take care of each other’s hearts.
- 24. “You’re All Kinds of Wonderful,” by Nancy Tillman, $18, Amazon
Tillman’s latest book celebrates all the “bells and whistles” that set children apart. (Her classic “Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You” is a weeper.)
- 25. “The I Love You Book,” by Todd Parr, $7, Amazon
The bright colors appeal to the littlest readers with an appealing message about loving little ones just as they are.
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