A Valentine List of Books

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“I love you so much I really can’t eat, but maybe you’re hungry so sweets to the sweet.” – David Carter

Here is a list of some of our favorite children’s books that we have enjoyed as we celebrate this great holiday. They’re in no particular order:

1. Valentine Friends by Ann Schweninger (1988, Scholastic) – a very creative story of best friends, Buttercup and Lucy, and all of the wonderful ways they celebrate this holiday; it even includes a how-to on creating construction hearts as well as some great knock-knock jokes!

2. Arthur’s Valentine Countdown by Marc Brown (1999, Random House) – one of the best lift-the-flap holiday books and it stars Arthur!

3. Love Bugs by David Carter (1995, Simon & Schuster) – one of the best holiday pop-up books ever!

4. A Kiss For Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik (1968, Weekly Reader Books) – with illustrations by Maurice Sendak!

5. Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink by Diane de Groat (1996, Morrow Junior Books) – the title of this book alone makes it a must-have!

6.  Cranberry Valentine by Wende and Harry Devlin (1986, Aladdin Books) – our friend Rhonda Flint gave us our first “Mr. Whiskers” book and this series is among our favorites to this day.  The illustrations are classic works of art and Mr. Whiskers is hilarious in his quest to discover who is his secret admirer!

7.  Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentine by Barbara Park (1999, Random House) – this was among our first series of books with actual chapters and the Valentine story is among our top three favorites.  This is a kindergartner you must read all about!  Another great secret admirer story, mixed so well into the perspective of the kindergarten mind!

8.  Valentine Cats by Jean Marzollo (1996, Scholastic) – writer cats, artist cats, postal cats, and a few kittens thrown in for good measure!

9.  Emily’s Valentine Party by Claire Masurel (1999, Puffin Books) – our aunt Mary Elise bought this as our oldest’s first book with her name in the title.  Emily the rabbit is having a party for her friends and the reader joins in by lifting the flaps as she prepares for her favorite holiday.

10.  The Valentine Bears by Eve Bunting (1983, Scholastic) – with illustrations by Jan Brett!  This is my personal favorite of the ten:  “Mr. Bear and Mrs. Bear always missed Valentine’s Day because they were hibernating.  But this year they share a wonderful surprise.”

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Happy Valentine’s Reading!!!

14 Books I Will Never Regret Reading With My Daughters

There are a thousand books that I have loved down through the years as a father reading together with my daughters, but this list (in no particular order) represents those works that changed something within us and so often caused us to keep reading beyond our normal one-chapter limit before bedtime.  These are the books that I think of without looking in the book room to remember them.  As I type their titles here below, I am immediately transported to the moments I was reading them with the girls, wondering what in the world was going to happen next and hoping they were half as excited as I was about the title of the next chapter or the illustration on the next page (and they were, most of the time).  I love them for allowing me to read to them.

1.  Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett – another world and cool weather!


2.  The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis – how it all began and from where that wardrobe came!

3.  The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum – our first chapter book together and better than the wonderful movie we know so well!

4.  Doll People by Brian Selznick – before Toy Story, there was this gem!


5.  Psalm 139 (that’s right, this is in the Old Testament of the Bible)
-good medicine when it has been a tough day at school!

6.  Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl – a dad who loves his son and proves it every day!

7.  The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick – an invention and old movies and a yearning to know your past!


8.  The Meanest Doll in the World by Brian Selznick
– toys come to life and make one of the best to read aloud!

9.  The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo – a short novel that packs a profound punch!


10.  Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles – only one word: wow! You’ll never forget it!

11.  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis – more hope packed into this story than you can even imagine! Dragons included!

Voyage of the Dawn Treader

12.  A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni – simply powerful for its friendship!

13.  Here I Am by Patti Kim – a book without words about life in a new country, and that says more than a dozen books with words!


14.  Snot Stew by Bill Wallace – laugh out loud funny from start to finish!



451 degrees of Reading

 Claire 451

Fahrenheit 451 – do you remember it?  When Ray Bradbury wrote this stark view of a world in which books are illegal and firemen are sent to burn them and the homes they are found in, I wonder if he could realize the impact his book would have upon teenagers in 2013.

Both of my older daughters (whose English teachers have been the cream of the crop) read it as part of their 8th grade reading lists. It was an interesting book and its subject was immediately interesting to them because they are avid readers and lovers of books, but both of them began to realize with this famous work that reading some of these classics are a bit like riding a roller coaster. There are interesting parts and great paragraphs and eerie scenes, but also slow parts and confusing moments and difficult passages.

Because of the ups and downs in this particular book and sometimes feeling like they were having to force themselves to keep reading, I often found myself trying to encourage them to keep reading until the story could capture their attention again.

And then something great happened last evening! We were at a school event and our middle daughter’s wonderful 7th grade English teacher, Mrs. Adam, stopped to say hello. We were talking about the common struggle of reading these classic works of literature and our daughter told her about the difficult and sometime-drudgery of reading Fahrenheit 451.

Mrs. Adam said, “The reason to keep reading such things is so you can be ready for literary allusions in the future. The cultural impact of these books will always find some place in an interesting conversation. By reading them now, you will be ready for such things and you can think right along with the best of them.”

No wonder this is a person we define as a great teacher.  She could see beyond the day-to-day (or page-to-page) and into the bigger picture.  She was reminding us that there are important aspects of being a reader that only time will tell.  She was teaching.