This post was written by media specialist Lauren Davis, as part of my “Reading Wednesdays” series in which Lauren and I take turns sharing our favorite kids lit recommendations.
If your kids are anything like mine, they will soon be hard at work, cutting and coloring homemade Valentines to be given out at school. Sticky fingers will be gluing hearts, handwriting classmates’ names and sprinkling glitter on pink construction paper, which will inevitably wind up all over your living room floor. Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day presents the perfect opportunity to talk with our kids about the ways in which we express affection and show how we care. What is love, anyway? What does it mean to love someone or something? How should love make us feel?
These are big questions, and they don’t always have the easiest answers. After all, sometimes love makes us feel like the sun is shining only for us, but other times, that love can be so overwhelming (or unrequited) that it brings us to tears. It is no wonder that children have such a hard time understanding what is going on in their little heads when one single emotion can affect us in such profoundly different ways.
I think the perfect way to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your kids is to snuggle together on the couch, reading heart-filled books that attempt to explain what it means to love and be loved.
Below are 16 of my favorite books about love— the huggy kind, the kissy kind, the self-love kind, and my personal favorite— the love is love is love kind. Enjoy!
1) Love Is, by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane: A little girl learns what it means to love as she cares for a duckling, hugs him closely, and then learns to let go. A tender beauty.
2) In My Heart, by Jo Witek and illustrated by Christine Roussey: A beautifully designed book (the heart on the cover is a cutout that changes color with every page turn) that puts words to all the BIG feelings in your heart. A full range of emotions is covered, like happiness, sadness, bravery, anger, and shyness. The books uses language and imagery to help children understand how feelings can manifest themselves physically, like sadness being heavy as an elephant and happiness feeling bright and shiny like a star.
3) The Day I Became a Bird, by Ingrid Chabbert and illustrated by Guiridi: When he begins school, a little boy falls in love for the very first time and will stop at nothing to win the affection of his crush.. even if that means spreading his wings and coming to school dressed as — you guessed it — a bird.
4) This Is Not a Valentine, by Carter Higgins: This is the most tender exploration of the childlike ways kids may show how much they care for another – starting with recognizing those little things that make the ones we love the happiest. From lucky rocks to gifts that match favorite shoelaces, this book totally makes me swoon on each and every read through.
5) Plant a Kiss, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Peter Reynolds: Sweet little miss plants a kiss — and that kiss blooms in magical ways. Little Miss spreads the bliss from that kiss to and fro and high and lo, but what is that bliss, exactly? A sweet gem that inspires your kids to dig deep into their imaginations as they try to figure out what joy can be shared from a blooming kiss.
6) Love, by Matt de la Pena and Illustrated by Loren Long: A poetic, lyrical mediation on love, replete with beautiful metaphors that will help little ones recognize how love appears in our everyday lives, from the lull of parents’ voices as they look over their sleeping children to the simplicity of burned toast. This stunning read explores how love shapes who we are and where we come from. I dare you to read it without crying.
7) Hug Machine, by Scott Campbell: The title says it all — no one can resist the hug machine! He’s really good at hugging. So good, in fact, that you will be amazed at all the little things we never think to hug but really enjoy a good dose of affection. Pure joy!
8) When an Elephant Falls in Love, by Davide Cali, illustrated by Alice Lotti: When an elephant falls in love, he experiences many of the same emotions as the rest of us: he’s giddy with joy and weak with anticipation. He’s left feeling equal parts shy and bold, and sometimes a little bit foolish too. There’s nothing like first love!
9) All Kinds of Kisses, by Heather Swain, illustrated by Steven Henry: How do giraffes kiss? What about hummingbirds? If your little ones love hitting you up for smooches, they will love reading this book with you — and trying to imitate the animals’ actions.
10) I Heart You, by Meg Fleming, illustrated by Sarah Jane Wright: A beautiful tribute to the incomparable connection between a parent and child, this is a lyrical and tender exploration of the ways in which a parent’s love can both encourage and reassure. A perfect gift for expecting parents!
11) What Do You Love About You?, by Karen Lechelt: We are all individuals, and as each and every one of us has our own unique attributes, we all have something to celebrate! This book is a perfect reminder that each of us is special in our own way, and it encourages kids to ask themselves “what do I love about me?!”
12) Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato: What happens when two worms fall in love and want to get married? Which worm will wear the dress and which will wear the tuxedo? On second thought, if worm loves worm — why should anything else matter? This fabulous story is without a doubt Happily Ever Elephants’ favorite book about love.
13) Hedgehugs, by Steve Wilson, illustrated by Lucy Tapper: Hoarce and Hattie do everything together. Well, almost everything. Hard as they try, the hedgehogs just can’t find a way to hug – their sharp spikes always get in the way! The two set off on a mission to figure out how to hug – and it will undoubtedly make your little ones giggle with glee.
14) Love Monster, by Rachel Bright: Poor googly-eyed love monster just can’t find a way to fit in with all the cuddly folks of Cutesville. This causes Love Monster to set out on a journey in search of someone to love him just the way he is. Reminding even the most jaded that love happens when you least expect it, this book is sure to leave you with a smile… and an open heart.
15) Love is Love, by Michael Genhart and illustrated by Ken Min: This book tackles LGBTQ discrimination in an age appropriate way. It’s about a little boy with two dads whose classmates make fun of him for wearing a shirt with a rainbow heart on it. They call it “gay.” The boy then educates his classmates on all the reasons why he’s proud to wear the shirt, and why his family is just as much a “real family” as anyone else.
16) Hug Time, by Patrick McDonnell: “There once was a kitten so filled with love, he wanted to give the whole world a hug,” begins this adorably sweet rhyming book about a kitten named Jules who goes on a journey to hug every living creature in the entire world. Of course, the book ends on a much smaller scale, when Jules returns home to embrace the person closest to him. The book encourages the reader to do the same.
What are your favorite children’s books about love? Tell us in the comments below!