Valentine’s Day – Let’s Celebrate Love!

The cover shows the titular rabbit, Mirabel, walking across a field, not noticing as valentines fly out of her bag behind her. The picture is surrounded with a frame of red and green flowers, red hearts, and more valentines.

By Laci R.

Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate love in its many forms. This list of favorites includes a chronic hugger, a snowy adventure, a wedding, and more! There are so many kinds of love, ways to express love, and forms of celebrating love. I hope these stories highlight just how special love is and that you share them with the children in your life.

Never Too Little to Love by Jeanne Willis
Love has no boundaries for our tiny mouse friend. Tiny Too-Little finds creative ways to try and reach his valentine, who’s high in the sky. He balances on his tip-toes on top of all sorts of stuff! A cabbage, teacup, thimble, clock, and many other items, but they just don’t seem to be working and then… CRASH! Tiny Too-Little is back on the ground and Topsy Too-Tall takes notice. She leans down to give him a kiss, proving that you’re never too little to love. This story is unique in page design with different sized flaps for each item Tiny Too-Little climbs. It helps practice repetition, and has an adorable pop-up book feature at the very end.

Pair with: Lilly’s Chocolate Heart by Kevin Henkes. As Lilly gets ready for bedtime, she tries to find the perfect spot to save her last chocolate heart wrapped in red foil.  She searches for somewhere special, but under the bed is too dusty, and there wasn’t any space between the books on the bookshelf. Finally, Lilly thinks of the best plan and enjoys the tasty treat!

The cover depicts to rabbits holding hands, dressed in red, pink, and yellow winter clothing, walking across a snowy field with the snow falling around them and the rising sun in the background.

Snowy Valentine by David Petersen
Jasper wants to find a special gift for his wife, Lilly. He visits his neighbors to help spark ideas by seeing what gifts they have in mind for their own loved ones. Chocolate flies and wilted flowers weren’t for Lilly, though. Jasper confides in Spalding, the cardinal, as he sits atop a tree. He expresses his disappointment in not finding Lilly the perfect gift. What he couldn’t see is that the tracks he made on his journey left the shape of a heart in the snow. In the end, Jasper found the perfect way to say “I love you.” This story highlights how special all sorts of gifts can be. Pair with: The Secret Life of Squirrels: A Love Story by Nancy Rose. See Mr. Peanuts try and impress his crush in this book told through words and photographs of real squirrels in adorable scenes.

Mirabel’s Missing Valentines by Janet Lawler
Mirabel is shy and nervous about trading valentines at school. After building up the courage, she’s on a mission to get to class and deliver her valentines to each of her classmates. Along the way, some slip away through a hole in her bag and end up in the hands of others. These cards bring such delight to Mirabel’s neighbors, but they all know the cards weren’t originally intended for them. After spreading more cheer and love than she could’ve ever imagined, Mirabel goes home with her own valentines overflowing from her sack. This book shows just how easy it is to spread love and joy, even in ways you least expect.

Pair with: The Runaway Valentine by Tina Casey. This story is told from the perspective of a valentine named Victor who is the fanciest in the shop. After being swept up in a pile, he heads out on his own journey where several people pick apart pieces of Victor to help with their needs. With just a tiny piece of himself left, he’s exactly what our last artist needs to make their valentine card complete. Victor ends up being the best valentine once again.

The cover depicts Frankenstein and his Bride in a heart-shaped cutout window in a wooden fence, holding a pink valentine heart between them as they look at each other affectionately.


Valensteins by Ethan Long
Fran K Stein is distracted and the other members of Fright Club can’t help but take notice. Normally, the fright club members are preparing for a night of scaring, but Fran is busy making something and everyone wants to know what it is. A mask with fangs? A big pink nose? A paper butt?! Phew! It’s just a valentine! However, that means Fran must be in love, and that causes the monsters to have even more questions. This book is sure to make you laugh with its silly explanations for love and clever side remarks. As a lover of all things spooky, this book always stands out to me in February as I long for October to be back. Pair with: A Crankenstein Valentine by Samantha Berger. See how things change for this crankenstein when he meets a new like-minded best friend who shares his distaste for the lovey, red and pink holiday.

Julián At the Wedding by Jessica Love
A wedding is one of the biggest celebrations of love and Julián can’t wait to be part of it. Julián makes a new friend named Marisol and they hit it off immediately. When the grown-ups aren’t looking, they sneak off together to play and use their imagination. Marisol gets messy after rolling on the ground with a sweet dog she met. Due to Julián’s quick thinking and excellent fashion sense, they’re able to put together a new outfit before returning to the party where they dance the night away. I especially love this book because so much of the story is told through body language and facial expressions. There’s love shown in a single look between friends, when a new outfit brings instant euphoria, and in the glowing faces of two beautiful brides celebrating their special day. Be sure to get a proper introduction to Julián by reading Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love.

Hug Machine by Scott Campbell
The Hug Machine is here to give everyone and everything a hug. Yes, even a spiky porcupine… with proper hugging equipment on, of course! There truly is nothing that the hug machine will not hug. Have you ever wondered how to hug a whale? The hug machine can show you exactly what to do! How does the hug machine keep his energy? Pizza – his favorite. This book shows the power of both giving and receiving hugs… and rest. Even hug machines need their rest.

Love Is My Favorite Thing by Emma Chichester Clark  
Plum is ready to take you on an adventure to show you her daily life and why love is her favorite thing. Snow, sticks, and treats are just a few of the things Plum loves. She also loves her family, but when she gets in trouble, Plum questions if her family still loves her back. This story does a great job at showing that love is always there, even when we make mistakes or get reprimanded.

Pair with: Here Comes Valentine Cat by Deborah Underwood. Cat is no fan of Valentine’s Day, but has a change of heart when they make an unexpected friend. This story is a great read-aloud as it’s meant to sound like you’re talking with Cat, with plenty of opportunities to ask for predictions of what might happen next.

I hope these books help make your Valentine’s Day special and open up a conversation about love in its many forms. Make cards for your loved ones, go on a walk, make special treats together, and enjoy all the warm snuggles and hugs. Love is always there, even if we have to look a little harder to find it at times.

Laci is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at HCLS. They love a wide variety of music, spending time in the garden, Halloween, cats, and crafting. Their “to read” list is always full of graphic novels and picture books.

Happy Chanukah!

The photograph depicts a tabletop menorah with nine lit candles in primary colors.
Eighth day of Chanukah menorah” by scazon is licensed under CC BY 2.0

By Eliana H.

Most people in the United States have heard of Chanukah. Though there are about six different accepted spellings for the holiday, “Chanukah” has always been my preference and that’s what I’m going with here. You may know it is the festival of lights. Many even know the tale of the oil that was only enough for one day miraculously lasting for eight days. Growing up, I always learned that while the oil was a fun story, the true triumph of Chanukah was that a small band of resistance fighters defeated a larger, more well-equipped military force. My family celebrates by playing dreidel, cooking and eating latkes, and, of course, lighting the candles. Although we exchange gifts, I’ve never felt like that is the most important part.

While Chanukah is not among the most sacred Jewish holidays, it is a time of joyous celebration, and we certainly want to take advantage of every opportunity for that during this challenging year. If you’re looking to introduce your child to some Chanukah-themed stories, take a look at these titles from the HCLS collection. Clicking on any of the titles below will open a tab with that title listing in our catalog.

Chanukah with Your Favorite Characters: Many familiar children’s book characters have a book in which they celebrate Chanukah. Here are a few of those titles.

Biscuit’s Hanukkah, by Alyssa Satin Capucilli – BOARD BOOK C

Happy Hanukkah, Biscuit!, by Alyssa Satin Capucilli – E CAP

Clifford Celebrates Hanukkah, by Norman Bridwell – E BRI

Happy Hanukkah, Corduroy, by Lisa McCue – BOARD BOOK M

The Count’s Hanukkah Countdown, by Tilda Balsley and Ellen Fischer – MEDIA TIE-IN

Happy Hanukkah, Curious George, by Emily Flaschner Meyer – BOARD BOOK M

Happy Hanukkah, Dear Dragon, by Margaret Hillert – ER HIL

You might know Dear Dragon from the expansive series by Margaret Hillert. In this volume, a boy and his pet dragon learn about Chanukah from a Jewish friend.

Grover’s Eight Nights of Light, by Jodie Shepherd – MEDIA TIE-IN

Fables and Folk Tales Related to Chanukah: While not telling the historical tale that is celebrated on Chanukah, these stories show characters overcoming obstacles to celebrate Chanukah.

Latkes, Latkes, Good to Eat, by Naomi Howland – E HOW

Latkes, Latkes, Good to Eat provides a twist on the traditional magic pot story. A young girl is rewarded for a good deed with a magic pan that cooks up latkes (potato pancakes) on command, but when her younger brothers can’t remember the words to make it stop, they end up with more than they expected.

The Golem’s Latkes, by Eric A. Kimmel – E KIM

Hanukkah Bear, by Eric A. Kimmel – E KIM

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, by Eric A. Kimmel – E KIM

Simon and the Bear, by Eric A. Kimmel – E KIM

A Confused Hanukkah: An Original Story of Chelm, by Jon Koons – E KOO

Moishe’s Miracle, by Laura Krauss Melmed – E MEL – also available as an ebook through OverDrive

Celebrating Together: These stories focus on families of all kinds celebrating Chanukah together.

Hanukkah Moon, by Deborah da Costa – E DaC – also available as an ebook through OverDrive

Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas, by Pamela Ehrenberg – E EHR

This volume shows readers a way that families of different backgrounds can combine their traditions into meaningful celebrations for everyone. While dealing with what may be a familiar sibling interaction to many, the main characters honor both their father’s Jewish and their mother’s East Indian heritage.

Kugel for Hanukkah?, by Gretchen M. Everin – E EVE

Jeremy’s Dreidel, by Ellie Gellman – E GEL

Hoppy Hanukkah!, by Linda Glaser – E GLA

The Hanukkah Mice, by Steven Kroll – E KRO

Nathan Blows Out the Hanukkah Candles, by Tami Lehman-Wilzig – E LEH

This Is the Dreidel, by Abby Levine – E LEV

The Night Before Hanukkah, by Natasha Wing – E WIN

The Eighth Menorah, by Lauren Wohl – E WOH

Chanukah in History: Each of these books shows how Chanukah was celebrated by someone at a particular point in the past.

One Candle, by Eve Bunting – E BUN

All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah, by Emily Jenkins – E JEN

I remember reading books about the All-of-a-Kind Family growing up, so I was excited to see this picture book arrive on our shelves. A Jewish immigrant family living in the tenements of New York City in 1912 celebrates Chanukah together, with interactions that feel familiar even today.

Hanukkah at Valley Forge, by Stephen Krensky – E KRE

Oskar and the Eight Blessings, by Richard and Tanya Simon – E SIM

Chanukah Nonfiction: Check out these books for more facts about Chanukah, its history, and how it’s celebrated.

The Story of Hanukkah, by David A. Adler – Childrens 296.435A

Celebrate Hanukkah, by Deborah Heiligman – Childrens 296.435H

Hanukkah, by Lisa M. Herrington – Childrens 296.435H

Light the Menorah!: A Hanukkah Handbook, by Jacqueline Jules – Childrens 296.435J

Hanukkah Around the World, by Tami Lehman-Wilzig – Childrens 296.435L

Maccabee Meals: Food and Fun for Hanukkah, by Judyth Saypol Groner – Childrens 641.567G

Hanukkah, by Trudi Strain Trueit – ER TRU

Harvest of Light, by Allison Ofanansky – E OFA

Even though this title is in our picture book collection, it walks readers through the step of preparing olive oil to light in an old-fashioned Chanukah menorah, from beginning to end. Follow a young Israeli girl as she watches the olives grow and helps her family harvest them before finally lighting some of the oil on the first night of Chanukah.

Howard County hosts a community Chanukah candlelighting every year. This year, due to safety concerns, the event will be virtual. It will take place on December 14 at 7 pm. If you’d like to join from the comfort of your own home, register at https://www.jewishhowardcounty.org/calendar/chanukah-menorah-lighting. Happy Chanukah!

Eliana is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at HCLS Elkridge Branch. She loves reading, even if she’s slow at it, and especially enjoys helping people find books that make them light up. She also loves being outside and spending time with friends and family (when it’s safe).

A Time to Give Thanks

The cover depicts a group of Native Americans in a circle around a fire, with hills and trees in fall colors against a sunset.

By Laci R.

I truly believe in the importance of taking time to reflect on what makes us feel thankful – what fills our hearts with joy. I’ve compiled some of my favorite picture books for the Thanksgiving holiday, traditions that accompany it, and thankfulness in general that I hope you enjoy sharing with the children in your life.

Duck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules
Tuyet is worried her family isn’t celebrating Thanksgiving properly because they’re serving duck instead of the popular turkey option. Her worries melt away as she learns that holidays don’t look exactly the same in every household and that those differences make for no less of a beautiful celebration. Culture, personal preference, and loved ones are all part of the formula for a successful Thanksgiving, and this book does a great job at showing the real diversity that fills family traditions.

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard (also available as an audiobook on CD)
Fry bread comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors. It unites family and friends and is a form of art and history that has been passed on for generations, a delicious staple in hundreds of tribes and celebrated in this book by a modern Native American family. Fry Bread beautifully represents the culture and legacy that lives on today in many of our own Thanksgiving celebrations. Pair this story with We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell – a vibrant and detailed book full of cultural and historical information earned an impressive list of awards. “Otsaliheliga” is a Cherokee word that means gratitude. Learn how the Cherokee Nation celebrates a year, starting in the Fall.

Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story! By JaNay Brown-Wood (also available as an audiobook on CD and an audio Wonderbook) is a quick and adorable read. Grandma is hosting a feast and pretty much everyone is invited. The only problem is that her tiny house quickly runs out of space for the eight uncles, fifteen hungry grandkids, and many other wonderful guests. Through counting (1-15) and rhyme, this story effortlessly builds an experience where you feel like you, too, are about to walk down Grandma’s back stairs into a glorious, warm-hearted, welcoming outdoor celebration. Pair this story with another classic counting story told through rhyme; Feast For 10 by Cathryn Falwell.

Gracias Thanks by Pat Mora (also available as an audio Wonderbook)
This bilingual read is sure to delight and make you reflect on the many things to be thankful for. Maybe it’s a ladybug landing on your fingertip, a new favorite book suggested by a friend, bursting with laughter from a pea fight with your sister, or the cricket serenading you to sleep. Pair this story with Apple Cake by Dawn Casey, where special thanks are given to the bees, sun, earth, farmers, and everything and everyone else that makes this simple pleasure possible – apple cake! This story includes a recipe on the last few pages so you can make your very own apple cake to share with loved ones. Don’t forget The Thankful Book by Todd Parr; I couldn’t write about this topic without mentioning a favorite of many. Gardening, hugs, friends, pets, and music are all things I’m incredibly thankful for and these are mentioned on pages bursting with color in Parr’s book.

 
Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet (also available as an eAudiobook) is one of the most interesting biographies I’ve seen for children. Pages are filled with multimedia collage art that draws you into the world of Tony Sarg, a self-taught immigrant with a creative dream. From his love of marionettes at a young age to the invention of his whimsical and enchanting floating balloons, you go along for every part of the journey! Learn how he avoided his chore of feeding the chickens at a young age. Pair this book with Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson where Sarah fights for many things she believes in, including Thanksgiving to become a national holiday. If it weren’t for her, there would be no distinct day to celebrate or reason to make parade floats!

The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing
Want a story that’s silly and a guaranteed laugh? Cousins Gavin and Rhonda are stuck in the kids’ room with slobbering babies upon arrival to Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma’s. They soon make a plan to escape outside to play. Quickly realizing there are a few obstacles to get past – including vicious guard dogs, the hall of aunts, and teenage zombies – the cousins must resort to a new plan, fast.

In November by Cynthia Rylant offers a look into the entire month and all the changes that happen in nature. The weather is getting colder, trees are becoming bare, and birds and animals are going on a journey or preparing for the season right where they are. November is also a time for enjoying delicious food and gathering for Thanksgiving, sitting by a crackling fire, and allowing ourselves to rest.

While the holidays may look very different this year, one thing remains the same – there’s always a reason to be thankful. Sharing these stories with you and knowing you will share them with the children in your life, is just one of the many things I’m thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Laci is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at HCLS. They love a wide variety of music, spending time in the garden, Halloween, cats, and crafting. Their “to read” list is always full of graphic novels and picture books.