Art Works Blog

When Love Means More Than Cooties

Everyone, it seems, is looking for love. Except for kids. They hate love. For most of them, it’s a cootie-covered contaminant, something to be avoided and vehemently denied. Interactions with the opposite sex are often limited to elongated ewwwwws, and the faintest blush at someone’s name is enough to draw merciless school bus teasing. But that’s why books exist: to open our minds to other, sometimes more mature, ways of thinking. With the loviest day of the year coming up tomorrow, here are a few books that will help children explore the concept of love in its many forms: between friends, between families, and yes, even between romantic interests.

Herman and Rosie
Written and Illustrated by Gus Gordon

For Herman the crocodile and Rosie the deer, living in a city of eight million hasn’t done much to stave off loneliness. Neighbors can still be strangers after all, and despite living in adjacent buildings, Herman and Rosie’s paths have never crossed. And so the two enjoy their shared passions of films about the ocean and music (she sings and he plays the oboe) within their respective cocoons of urban solitude. Eventually, Rosie’s voice and Herman’s oboe form a mutual siren song, and the two discover one another at last. It’s serendipity at its sweetest.

The Lion and the Bird
Written and Illustrated by Marianne Dubuc, Translated from the French by Claudia Z. Bedrick

Certain friendships are strong enough to endure long periods of silence or absence, without ever missing a beat. Such is the case in The Lion and the Bird. After a bird injures its wing while migrating south one fall, he spends the winter recuperating with a big-hearted lion, who nurses him back to health. The two become fast friends, and the daily chores of life become a little sweeter when performed with a companion. Come spring, the bird is strong enough to rejoin his flock, leaving the lonesome lion back to his usual solitude. But as the leaves show their autumn colors once again, the two reunite, and we’re reminded that time is no match for the very best friendships.

Paul Meets Bernadette
Written and Illustrated by Rosy Lamb

Paul the goldfish spends his days swimming in circles. But when Bernadette moves in, she opens up an enchanting world beyond their bowl, where ordinary objects suddenly take on a magical sheen. A bouquet seen through their glass wall becomes a colorful forest, a teapot becomes an elephant, and a collection of cartons and glasses becomes the skyline of Milwaukee. This sweet story shows how finding someone we love can change the way we see the world.

My Father’s Arms Are a Boat
Written by Stein Erik Lunde, Illustrated by Øyvind Torseter, Translated from the Swedish by Kari Dickson

Of all the types of love, none is so fierce as a parent’s love for their child. This is the type of love that will keep you awake at night, sometimes from worry, and other times, because you simply wish to soothe your child through their own sleeplessness. In this beautiful, poignant book, a little boy mourns his mother, and finds comfort from anxiety and insomnia in his father’s arms. As they sit up through the night, they together navigate the darkness of grief, and find a balm against loss in the presence of one another. Although perhaps an unconventional choice for a Valentine’s Day post, it’s a testament to the unbreakable bond between parent and child, and a reminder that love means more than flowers and frosting.

We Love Each Other

Written and Illustrated by Yusuke Yonezu

Somewhere along the way, “You complete me” became an eye-roller of a cliché. But when the concept is illustrated instead of written out, it feels fresh, new, and rather ingenious. Designed for the very youngest among us, this board book tells us that birds, turtles, and even mice love each other, using cut-outs to show how these animals form complete shapes when paired together. A teardrop bird becomes one half of a heart when you flip the page to his mate, and an anemic rectangle of a bear becomes a healthy square when shown side-by-side his companion. An easy-to-digest introduction to that big mess of a feeling called love.

 

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