It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.
It’s Valentine Week! How awesome that our reading theme is very much in keeping with this week’s red-filled and heart-shaped festivity. Naturally, I hunted down a few Valentine-themed picturebooks that I can find from our libraries here in Singapore.
Written by: Samantha Berger Illustrated by: Dan Santat
Published by: Little Brown & Company, 2014
ISBN: 0316376388 (ISBN13: 9780316376389). Book was borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
While most people feel a sense of fluttery excitement over the entire idea of Valentine’s – there are are also people who feel the exact opposite, those who become naturally cranky with the very notion of the consumeristic aspect of something that ought to have been pure and simple.
While Crankenstein does not really touch on the commercialism of Valentine’s – he hates everything about it with a passion – from the sneeze-inducing roses to having brand-new heart undies (even I don’t know what to feel about that, and I enjoy Valentine’s)…
… to Valentine-themed celebrations in school including writing messages in heart-shaped valentines, from creating “mushy” garlands of hearts, to eating heart-shaped chocolates (with coconut hair, that is indeed gross).
I enjoyed reading this book, because there are indeed quite a number of very young boys who are disgusted by the very notion of smooches and kisses and crushes, and this story presents an alternative emotion (aside from the lovey-dovey, touchy-feely, heart-eyed sentiment) that a few readers can definitely resonate with.
Written by: Adam Rex Illustrated by: Scott Campbell
Published by: Roaring Brook Press, 2017
ISBN: 1626722889 (ISBN13: 9781626722880). Book was borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
A few years back, we had a reading theme called Message in a Bottle where we featured books that have an epistolary format – or written in the form of letters. This book would have been perfect for that reading theme – as the entire narrative is written in the form of love letters exchanged by Ox and Gazelle as initiated by the former.
I was immediately taken by this picturebook primarily because I have a soft spot for love letters. I know how powerful they can be – and this was demonstrated clearly by Ox who was relentless in his pursuit of the beautiful gazelle, who I thought (at least in the beginning), was quite full of herself. In fact, so self-assured is she of her own beauty that she even has a generic response that she provides to her many admirers, together with a signed enclosed photograph.
While Ox could have come across as annoyingly persistent, I found his responses witty and funny, with just the right dab of self-deprecation, and the perfect dose of flattery that even Gazelle could not resist. My heart broke a little bit for him when Gazelle decided to finally be as direct as she possibly could, saying that she could not possibly love anyone as unlovable as Ox.
I understand some of the concerns about this type of stalker-ish behaviour that does not seem to take no for an answer, but I felt that somehow this was done with humour, grace, and just plain ole unconditional positive regard that was not really that gratingly-insistent – just constant, reliable, and quietly-resolute. I also like how seemingly open-ended the ending was, leaving a few spaces for the reader to discern for themselves exactly what happened, with the endpapers providing a few clues. Whether Gazelle was won over in the end, I shall leave for you to discover.
Written by: Eve Bunting Illustrated by: Jan Brett
Published by: HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016 (first published 1984)
ISBN: 0544531000 (ISBN13: 9780544531000). Book was borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
Among all these three picturebooks, I would have to confess that this one is my favourite. Originally published in 1984, this was re-published two years ago as a beautiful gift edition.
For the longest time, Mr. and Mrs. Bear sleep through Valentine’s Day. This year, Mrs. Bear was determined to finally experience Valentine’s with her beloved husband, by setting the alarm at exactly 14 February. She woke up unseasonably early, and prepared all the delectable things that Mr. Bear is certain to enjoy such as honey that “smelled of summer” and a “bowl of crunchy dried beetles and bugs.”
This story is a beautiful reminder of why couples celebrate Valentine’s Day to begin with: it’s really about spending beautiful time together, the thoughtfulness and intimate knowledge of what the other person loves and enjoys, and the going out of one’s way, the selflessness in making an entire day special to make the other person (or in this case, bear) smile.
The challenge, however, is whether Mr. Bear would even have the energy to wake up during a period of hibernation – when it is reputed that he can sleep through anything and everything. This is truly a beautiful story that shows exactly what it means to love another being, Valentine or not.