Many wonderful legends surround the life of St. Valentine — or should we say the saints named Valentine?
There were at least three Valentines — all martyrs — whose feasts were remembered on Feb. 14 on the Church calendar until 1969. Today the day is set aside for Valentine of Rome, a priest (and possibly bishop) who was martyred in Rome in the third century, and Valentine of Terni, Italy, another priest-martyr who may well be the same person.
One of the more popular stories recalls a Valentine who was a priest and physician known for his great acts of love and kindness.
With so little history to draw from, the Church dropped the feast of St. Valentine from its universal calendar. Local churches may still observe it and millions around the world celebrate the generous spirit for which Valentine is remembered. Theories abound as to how this saint came to be associated with the exchange of expressions of affection and romance.
These books (all available in, or through, retail bookstores) invite kids to continue this wholesome, happy and heartfelt tradition — wherever it came from.
MY VALENTINE STORY: GIVING MY HEART TO GOD
written by Crystal Bowman
illustrated by Claudine Gévry
14 pages, $6.99
A little girl has fun making and giving valentines to everyone she loves. These lacy and glittery red hearts remind her of the special love God has for her, her friends and her family. So great is God’s love that he sent his own Son. “How can I give God my heart?” she asks. “Loving him is where I’ll start.” Large, heart-shaped boardbook with rhyming text. Ages 1 to 3.
IT’S VALENTINE’S DAY
Written by Jack Prelutsky
Illustrated by Yossi Abolafia
48 pages, $6.99
Fourteen valentine poems are included in this classic collection. “Mother’s Chocolate Valentine” captures good intentions gone awry: “I bought a box of chocolate hearts, / a present for my mother, / they looked so good I tasted one, / and then I tried another.” Kids’ concerns about how many — if any — valentines will come their way are addressed in “Our Classroom Has a Mailbox.” Sweet poems about a first “crush” (“I Love You More Than Applesauce”) and special valentines for pets (“I Made My Dog a Valentine”), teachers (“A Valentine for My Teacher”), and dads (“My Father’s Valentine”) are fun for children to read aloud. Ages 5 and older.
RHYME TIME VALENTINE
written and illustrated
by Nancy Poydar
Holiday House, 2003
32 pages, $16.95
Valentine’s Day is Ruby’s special day. Dressed in her red top, red skirt, red tights and red boots, Ruby carries her sack with homemade valentines to school. Each valentine has a special rhyming message for her classmates. When a big gust of wind scatters the valentines and her hopes for the class valentine exchange, a disappointed Ruby must find a way to save the day. Directions for making valentines included. Ages 4 to 8.
THE VALENTINE EXPRESS
written and illustrated by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
Marshall Cavendish, 2004
32 pages, $16.95
On Valentine’s Day, Mrs. Bloom teaches the class about this special red-letter day. Minna takes the lesson to heart and decides to spread love to her neighbors at home. Minna and her brother Pip celebrate the holiday by being kind to others and making special mementos for grown-ups who they fear might not have received any Valentines. They place their labors of love into Pip’s wagon — the Valentine Express — and deliver them to the delight of their neighbors. Ages 5 to 10.
written by April Jones Prince
illustrated by Elisabeth Schlossberg
24 pages, $3.99
It’s time to celebrate Valentine’s Day and all the animals are getting into the act. With happy pictures and terse verse, this book shows that half the fun of Valentine’s Day is in the preparation. The other half comes from celebrating together. Ages 3 to 8.
written by Jan Carr
illustrated by Dorothy Donohue
Holiday House, 2003
32 pages, $6.95
A little panda celebrates Valentine’s Day by hiding paper hearts for everyone in his family. There are hearts for Mom, Dad, Grandma, the new baby and even the dog. In the end, the panda family shares much more than valentines — they share their love. Although Mommy Panda treasures the paper hearts, she tells her little one that he is “the sweetest heart of all.” A great choice for young kids, the rhyming text is gentle and reassuring, while the intricate, cut paper illustrations are vibrant and eye-catching. Ages 3 to 8.
IF YOU’LL BE MY VALENTINE
written by Cynthia Rylant
illustrated by Fumi Kosaka
32 pages, $14.99
A young boy invites his loved ones to be his valentine, pledging his love in return. He promises Grandma that “If you’ll be my valentine / I’ll write a special letter. I’ll add some hugs / and kisses, too / to make it even better.” Mom, Dad, friends and even the family pets receive similar invitations. Ages 4 to 8.
retold and illustrated byRobert Sabuda
32 pages, $7.99
There are many legends surrounding the life of St. Valentine. This book tells a special one in which the priest-physician befriends a young girl afflicted with blindness. He treats her regularly by day and prays for her by night. Valentine is soon imprisoned for his faith. Just before he is martyred, the saint sends the child a note inscribed with the words “From your Valentine” written upon it. As the little girl holds the note to her face, her sight is restored. An inspiring tale, the finely detailed paper mosaic illustrations give the feel of ancient artwork. Ages 8 and up.
The Crawford sisters
write from Pittsburgh.