Monday, February 3, 2014

A perfect read for Valentine's Day!

Perfect read for primary grades on
Valentine's Day.
Valentine’s Day is coming up, and I know the world is full of anti-Valentine’s Day jeers, but it has always been one of my favorite holidays.  Don’t you remember when you were in elementary school and you got to decorate brown paper bags?  Then, the next day you got to put them on your desk and everyone went around and dropped a card inside?  It’s not that hard for me to remember, seeing as I am an elementary school teacher who still does that.  I just adore Valentine’s Day, and I totally get sucked into the cheesy stuff.  What can I say?  I love love, and I love a day devoted to love.  I’m just one big mushy-gushy blob of sentiment, and I appreciate Cynthia Rylant for indulging me on that fact with her picturebook If You’ll Be My Valentine (Published 2005).

                When deciding what Cynthia Rylant books I wanted to read, I stumbled upon If You’ll Be My Valentine and I knew I had to have it.  This book is written in verse, with a little boy (presumably) writing valentines out to the different people in his life.  The opening valentine, which addresses his cat, states:
                If you’ll be my valentine
                I’ll kiss you on the nose.
                I’ll scratch your ears
                And rub your head
                And pet your little toes.
The books continues in this manner, with each poem consisting of an ABCDB pattern.  Every poem in the books begins with the line “If you’ll be my valentine,” and then addresses someone in the boy’s life.  Throughout the book, the boy writes valentines for his cat, his dog, his stuffed animal, a random bird out his window, and others.  It is presented in a simple format that I think the very youngest of school children could understand and adore.  
                This book is definitely a book chiefly for the primary grades.  The illustration on the cover, as well as those throughout the book, are of a simple nature.  The boy looks to be about a kindergarten or first-grader, and I think the way he drives his stuffed bear in his toy car and gets tucked in by his parents at the end is something that younger children would relate to (At least out loud: you know how kids get when they get older!)  Throughout the book, Fumi Kosaka’s illustrations are ones that many young children can find themselves in—playing with animals, sending a note to grandma, playing with a beloved pet.  These illustrations are full-bleed across the page, bright and full of color.  I can’t help but think it will produce that mushy-gushy blob of sentiment that happens to me every Valentine’s Day!  If you are a teacher in the primary grades, I would highly recommend this Cynthia Rylant book as a read-aloud on Valentine’s Day.
The card covers underneath the poem could be a great conversation piece and
start to creating your own Valentines' Day cards with your class.
                What I love the most about the illustrations are the Valentine’s Day cards that are on each page.  The book is laid out so that the poem is on one page, with the illustrations on the other page.  Underneath each poem, there is the cover of a Valentine’s Day card.  For example, on the page where our little boy is promising to pull his younger sibling on a wagon, the cover of the card is a wagon with a heart sitting on top.  I think this book could be used as a way to make Valentine’s Day cards with your class.  You could present the children with the ABCDB pattern structure, discuss the Valentine’s Day covers with them, and then have children create their own cards for those that they love.  I really appreciate that the book isn’t just about Valentine’s Day with a mom and a dad, but that Valentines can really be anyone or anything that we love.
                After reading Cynthia Rylant’s The Old Woman Who Named Things and now this one in a single sitting, I am trying to piece together what makes up Cynthia Ryland as an author.  I’ve also previously read many of her works, including The Relatives Came, Missing May, When I Was Young in the Mountains, and In November.  I’m always amazed when authors can write across ages and genres.  Cynthia Rylant won the Newbery for Missing May, and yet she is still able to craft sentimental Valentine’s Day books like If You’ll Be My Valentine for young children.  Above all, I think what Cynthia Rylant is able to do for me is leave me with a strong sense of feeling.  There is nothing I hate more than finishing a book and feeling nothing.  Make me happy, make me sad, rip my heart out and leave it on the ground, but make me feel something.  Cynthia Rylant has the ability to connect with you in her works, even if it is only poetry aimed at kindergarteners.  That, above all else, is what makes her a master storyteller.  I cannot wait to continue my exploration of Cynthia Rylant and let her break my heart or make me happy all over again.



  1. Thank you for sharing! I was looking for a new book to read to my second graders for Valentine's Day. This one sounds and looks like a winner!

    1. I'll bring it on Thursday. I don't think my kiddos would quite appreciate it like younger ones would!