Share the LOVE – A Valentine’s Day Blog by Kim Bushman Aguilar

I love Valentine’s Day! Even when I was little, I loved picking out which Valentine’s Day cards I wanted to give to my classmates, and I took such care in writing their names as prettily as I possibly could so each friend would know how much I cared about them. I’d delight in decorating my own valentine’s shoebox with paper doilies. Oh my! All the glorious paper doilies! My little heart would fill to bursting with the different shapes and sizes and all the possibilities of such pretty gifts to make and give. And, every year, I loved receiving the tiny heart-shaped box of chocolates from my parents. It was both the tradition and the candy that I loved. Nowadays, I carry on the traditions with my own family and friends, going “all out” for the lovey-dovey holiday, from decorating and homemade treats to valentines and love songs. I just love Valentine’s Day!

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This year, I’d love to share some snippets of the darling Valentine-themed books I’ve collected over the years, and then I want to hear about all your favorites! Share them in the comments! Let’s share the LOVE!

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Speaking of love, LOVE from the Very Hungry Caterpillar is one of the littlest and cutest Valentine’s Day books in my collection. The simple prose “You are…so sweet…the cherry on my cake…the apple of my eye…the bee’s knees,” accompanied by the classic Eric Carle primary-color-bold illustrations, brings me a lot of joy. “You make…the sun shine brighter…the stars sparkle.” Oh, my goodness, this book is too cute. Perfect for sharing your love with little ones at bedtime, or anytime!

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There are lots of Valentine board books out there, but my favorite is Bananas for You by Sabrina and Eunice Moyle. It is hilarious. This is the Valentine book you get for the 7-year-old boy who loves to torture you with potty humor. It’s equal parts playful and clever, and all the little big kids will love it.

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Love You by Heart by Peter H. Reynolds is just the sweetest. It’s a little love letter dedicated to the author’s first grandchild . . . “I loved you by heart even before I met you.” I love the quirky illustrated heart-shaped characters and all of their little antics throughout the book. This is the kind of book you gift to anyone you love, especially when you know them well and have seen them on their “funny days…grumpy days” and still “love everything about” them.

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I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossett-Shustak and Caroline Jayne Church is very similarly composed . . . “I love your happy side, your sad side, your silly side, your mad side,” but the illustrations are of a baby boy and his teddy bear. I have to include this one because I read it every day to my son when he was little, and I still love the sing-song rhymes and cuddly emotions that bubble up when I read it now.

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Another book from the artistic mind of Peter H. Reynolds, written by Susan Verde, is the quite special I Am Love, which came out in 2019, but I hadn’t noticed it until this year (covid blindness, amirite?!). This one defines love as affirmations that fill me up right to my tippy-top with sunshine and daisies. This is a very girly book, but everyone can benefit from the sincere message and the meditative yoga poses in the back. I appreciate this one for making me feel like I can take a deep breath and really feel the love.

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Now for a throw-back, and not specifically a Valentine’s Day book, but go with me on this. One of my favorite stories from my childhood is Part-Time Dog, by Jane Thayer (a prolific children’s book author I hope to meet in heaven) and Seymour Fleishman. There’s something so wholesome about little Brownie, the dachshund puppy that finds not only one but three homes on Maple Street. He wanders around, plays with the children, and three different ladies end up taking care of him, but none of them really want a dog. My siblings and I loved this book growing up, and we could really relate to the fact that Brownie was not allowed to get hair on the blue

Victorian sofa, the illustration of which is seared into my memory. So fancy! But the puppy pulls at the neighbor ladies’ heartstrings, and so after sending him off with the local dog catcher, they grab their pocketbooks and all rush out of their respective houses to go rescue Brownie at the exact same time. The conundrum of having them all fall in love with him is settled when they decide to put a fence around all three houses and take turns with their “part-time dog.” Mrs. Butterworth sums up what they’re all thinking, “Even if he does leave dog hairs on the furniture. You can’t be mean to people who trust you!” She personifies Brownie similarly to how our modern-day love for our pets knows no bounds: pets are people. And their love for us is unconditional. See? Valentine book.

Okay, okay, that might’ve been a bit of a stretch, but The Day it Rained Hearts by Felicia Bond is everything a Valentine book should be. Cornelia Augusta is out one day in her galoshes when hearts rain down from the sky! She catches them and takes them home and has the bright idea of using the hearts to make valentines for all her friends. Cornelia Augusta is thoughtful and creative, and it tickles me to see how each of her unique gifts is just the perfect match for the friend that receives it. She’s the kind of valentine gift-giver that I aspire to be!

The book with the biggest heart in my collection—no, really, it’s literally the biggest board book I own at 10×10.5 inches!—is the darling In My Heart by Jo Witek. It’s part of her Growing Hearts series. I’m in love with how each page has a heart-shaped cutout of a different color and explains different feelings in our hearts through simile and metaphor that even little children can understand. I’ll say it again. This book is positively darling, and I’m so happy I added it to my library. “My heart can feel so many feelings, and yours can too! Today, my heart is proud. How does your heart feel?”

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Well, today, my heart is proud too! I’m a children’s book author myself, and my book I Love You Across the World, illustrated by the brilliant Jenni Feidler-Aguilar, is finally available! I am THRILLED to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year by gifting it to all of you! I traveled extensively when I was a young adult because my parents lived in Europe for over 20 years, and I wanted to turn my love for other places and cultures into a bedtime story for little ones. I loved the creative process of writing this book, from figuring out how to rhyme the names of so many countries, to researching all the ways to say “I love you” in each different language, to seeing Jenni’s phenomenal illustrations bring it all to life. This is the work of my heart, and I’m delighted to share it with all of you.

Now it’s your turn! Tell me all about your favorite Valentine’s Day books, or books about love, or just your favorite book of all time! I want to hear all about it. Share the LOVE in the comments below, and have a very HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!

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