Books that say 'be mine'
Valentine's Day is a warm spot in the center of winter, a reason for exchanging gifts, cards and candy, for giving - and receiving - extra helpings of affection. Just in time for this amorous season, two children's books arrive to remind us how fantastic it is to love and be loved. In Felicia Bond's The Day It Rained Hearts, we find young Cornelia Augusta walking in a storm. Instead of raindrops, however, hearts are falling from the sky. Cornelia catches as many of the pretty objects as she can and takes them home. But rather than keeping them to herself, she makes the hearts into Valentine's gifts for all her friends. This simple act of generosity by the young girl beautifully illustrates how much more rewarding it is to share happiness with our friends and loved ones than to keep it to ourselves.
Cornelia realizes that each heart, like each of her friends, is unique, and she finds a special purpose for every one of them. Whether it's a collar for her dog friend, a heart full of holes, Swiss-cheese style, for her mouse mate, or a cottontail card for her bunny buddy, Cornelia makes sure that each of her play pals receives the perfect Valentine. Through her efforts we see that even the smallest gestures in life can mean a lot if you put a little thought - and lots of love - into them.
Cornelia's ability to find delight in the simplest things around her - from raindrops to the leaves on trees - is wonderfully refreshing. Bond's portrayal of the young girl proves we don't always need money or store-bought gifts to make our friends and ourselves happy. The best presents always come from the heart. Originally published in 1983 as Four Valentines in a Rainstorm, Bond's story has been expanded visually and comes with a special holiday sticker sheet kids will love.
As the title character in Truelove by Babette Cole quickly learns, not all heartfelt gifts are understood. In this amusing and poignant story, a young dog wonders if there is enough love to go around as he attempts to adjust to the arrival of a new baby in his home. The playful pup tries to express his joy and love for the new addition - by "sharing" his freshly caught mouse, taking the baby's crib for a "walk" and serenading the child with his "beautiful" singing voice. But his actions do more harm than good. His parents are so focused on the new baby that they misinterpret Truelove's affections as annoyances and order him to go outside.
Cole, the author and illustrator of dozens of acclaimed picture books, including Princess Smartypants, Prince Cinders and Bad Habits!, uses her instantly recognizable and wonderfully wacky cartoons to bring this inspiring story to life. Her tongue-in-cheek, heart-warming tale reminds us how simple it can be to share love - and how easy it can be to neglect those we really care about.
It is not until Truelove runs away, meets new friends and gets into a lot of trouble that his parents realize how much they love and miss him. Luckily for the pup, "Love will find you when you are lost." His parents come to the rescue and bail him - and all his newfound canine friends - out of the dog pound. Through his adventures, Truelove demonstrates some great Valentine's Day lessons - that "Love means thinking of others" and "Love means forgiving." And above all else, that love may not always be easy, but there is enough to go around.
Both The Day It Rained Hearts and Truelove show us in various ways that love is all around us - falling from the sky, hanging from the trees. And most importantly, the books illustrate that it doesn't need to be Valentine's Day for us to express affection. Anytime is a good time to remind your loved ones that they are just that - loved.
Heidi Henneman is a freelance writer in New York City whose work has appeared in Fitness, Cosmopolitan, Glamour and Men's Health.