Be My Valentine: Love, Friendship and Boundaries in Children’s Books

“This is MY hair. It’s great that you love it. I love it too. But please, just look and don’t touch without my permission.”

~~ Aria, in Sharee Miller’s Don’t Touch My Hair!

(A version of this article first appeared in Kingston Neighbours magazine, February, 2021.)

Ah, Valentine’s Day: roses and romance, cards and candlelight, hearts and hope, chocolates and children?! That’s right; Valentine’s Day isn’t just for couples. Kids love to celebrate love too! There are many great books you can share with your kids this month, including classics like The Valentine Bears by Eve Bunting, Love You Forever by Robert Munsch or Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney. But if you are looking for something different or new, funny or quirky, diverse or educational, give these books a read with your kids!

Fun

These books about friendship and love will amuse young and old alike.

Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink, Diane de Groat, 1996, 4+ — Gilbert learns about friendship and forgiveness when he sends funny but unkind valentines to two friends who hurt his feelings. 

Snuggle Puppy! A Little Love Song, Sandra Boyton, 2003, 0+ — A delightful, rhyming board book expressing a mother dog’s unconditional love for her pup: “I love what you are, I love what you do, Fuzzy little Snuggle Puppy, I love you!”

Yuck, A Love Story, Don Gillmor, 2000, 4+ — While publicly proclaiming his new neighbour, Amy, is yucky, young Austin still tries to impress her, with humorous results.

Diverse

These inclusive, kid-friendly books show children love transcends all.

And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, 2005, 4+ — This heart-warming book is based on the true story of Roy and Silo, two male penguins at the Central Park zoo, who successfully hatched an abandoned egg and raised a chick named Tango together.

Worm Loves Worm, J.J. Austrian, 2016, 4+ — Worm and worm love each other and decide to get married, but who will be the bride and who will be the groom? As their friends plan their unconventional wedding, worm and worm focus on their love.

Empowering

Love and friendship are wonderful, but so are boundaries! These books gently demonstrate kids have rights in relationships too.

Don’t Touch My Hair!, Sharee Miller, 2018, 4+ — Aria loves her gorgeous, black hair that “grows up toward the sun like a flower”, but she doesn’t love everyone wanting to touch it without permission; an uplifting book about self-love, personal boundaries and racial sensitivity.

Hug?, Charlene Chua, 2020, 3+ — Hugs can give comfort, but there are limits, as the little girl in Canadian Charlene Chua’s latest picture book learns when one animal after another asks her for a hug. A hilarious read for youngsters, Chua’s book also imparts an important message about being able to say no.

Noni Says No, Heather Hartt-Sussman, 2001, 4+ – Noni can do many things, but she struggles to say no to her friend, until one day she’s had enough and finds her voice; a wonderful book about healthy relationships and standing up for one’s self.

These books will definitely help your kids appreciate love in all its many-splendored forms. Whatever you read with your kids, I wish all of you nothing but love, laughter and respectful boundaries this Valentine’s Day!

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