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Spreading love

This February 14th I want to do nothing more than encourage you to fall in love … with a book and to help you along the way here are just a very few delightful picture books to fall in love with …

Have you ever been told there are two sides to every story? Well it is true there are and Hugs and Kisses by Sam Hay and Emma Doo (Egmont) sets out to prove it, oh and also to introduce you to Big Blue Whale who is very much in need of a hug and Wiggly Octopus who really needs a kiss. Why do they need a hug and a kiss? Well why does any of us need these things? Blue Whale has lots of friends, but he is so big that their efforts at hugging him when he needs it really don’t hit the mark. Wiggly Octopus has hit her head, her friends are worried that trying to give her a kiss will tangle them in her tentacles. What is to be done …

With two sides to this story – quite literally, there are two covers, two colours, two main characters and two stories but of course there is just one story too – will you be able to untangle the muddle and work out what needs to be done before the characters do?

The perfect story for valentines, for sharing and for teaching children (and adults) about the importance of friends, hugs & kisses. A true delight and with a wonderful surprise whichever way you read the story!

In Blossom by Cheon Yooju (Lincoln Children's Books) is quite simply captivating. Its simple text and muted colour palette – there are perhaps only one or two colours aside from the black and white pencil sketches – belies a story with deeper resonances. It is a sunny day and we, the reader, can almost feel the warmth as we admire the blossoms on the trees. Of course, such twinkly days are perfect for a picnic and this is what cat has planned. Dog on the other hand thinks, that as a breeze blowing day it is the perfect time for a walk and a read. With only one bench in sight Cat and Dog must share. They can share the bench quite easily but what will happen when that twinkly sun and blowing breeze make themselves very well known … A beautiful book whose simplicity captures more than the delights of Spring, suggestive, simple and elegantly illustrated there is plenty here to read in both the said and the unsaid. A book to fall in love with.

Everyone Walks Away (Gecko Press) may be a book you feel does not quite sit comfortably with a Valentine’s theme … BUT here is a book about perhaps one of the most important loves of all – friendship. Eva Lindstrom does not shy away from the harsh reality of someone who may have no friends. She does not hide the sadness that this state of affairs may bring about but she does show how a resolution can be found, how friends can be made, how a little afternoon tea may help and how things … well … they don’t always have to stay the same. So why include this in my Valentine’s round-up? Because from friendship can come love and we can love our friends as closely and as dearly as our families. With simply unique illustrations, a style that will appeal as much to the adult readers as the child this is a powerful and moving story to fall in love with but more importantly to learn from.

Children - have you ever had a bear you have loved so much that it has fallen to bits? Grown-ups – have you ever found yourself time and again repairing a much-loved bear which is beginning to fall to bits? Sound familiar? Loved to Bits by Teresa Heapy and Katie Cleminson (David Fickling Books) will delight anyone to whom the above sounds familiar. A tender story about one little child and their much-loved stripy ted. Ted and child have many an adventure together, but the trouble is Ted seems to end up losing parts as a result. Does this mean he will be loved even less? Not for a minute! With action a-plenty this is a delightfully loving and caring story of the very special bonds of love which can never be broken.

We all know about the Little Miss and the Mr Men but here they are in another new picture book format story for us, and one that is just perfect for valentines! Love by Roger Hargreaves (Egmont) is a celebration of many of these much-loved characters who have come together to show us, in a gorgeously bright and rhyming story, just how much they mean to one another. Tall and small, splendid or cool, no matter who you are, what you are, how you look or feel this book is a celebration of giving, sharing and above all else, LOVE.

Another character who will be close to many hearts – adult and child alike – is the one and only bear Pooh. Love from Pooh celebrates the luck of love, the happiness bought by friendship, songs of love, love at first sight and well, love in all its forms. With quotes from across the Pooh stories and illustrations to accompany this is a delightful pocket-sized book reminding us just how special love can be.

Finally, and if you read this story, you will discover why it is not last, Bagel in Love by Natasha Wing and Helen Dardik (Sterling Children’s Books) celebrates all things food and dance. From bread to crackers, croissants to toast, cupcakes to icing and even the odd cherry here is a book that will certainly entertain every adult reader maybe even more so than children. The puns, and there are plenty, had me laughing out loud, not just because they are funny but because they are clever too – pretzel having a salt rub, croissant declaring bagel has taken the biscuit – and on it goes. But what is this delicious story all about? A dance contest and a lesson – that trying - just a little and believing in yourself can really pay dividends. Sparkly, bright, silly, this is a book to come back to time and again for a big dollop of love and an even bigger spoonful of sweet laughter.


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