cover image Saint Valentine

Saint Valentine

Robert Clarke Sabuda. Atheneum Books, $17.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-31762-0

Stunning mosaics crafted from marbleized and hand-painted paper depict this legend of Valentine, a humble Roman physician and ``priest of the Christians'' whose patients include a jailer's blind daughter. Recognizing the danger of praying to a single god (rather than to the numerous gods most Romans worship), Valentine prays for his patients only at night, but he is eventually imprisoned. Aware of his fate, he writes to the jailer's daughter, who receives her sight when a crocus drops into her hand from the scroll her father reads is ``from your Valentine.'' The book's matter-of-fact narrative (some explanations are simplified for the intended audience) rightly points the reader's attention to Sabuda's intricately conceived mosaics. The marbleized paper creates subtle textures and shading, while vertical illustrations exude drama and compassion. Sabuda extends his mosaic motif onto the white space by constantly expanding and fragmenting it with full-page illustrations; tall, rectangular frames; patterned border strips and blocks of type. The resulting interplay of geometric shapes and color lends an especially appropriate classical appearance to this singular work. Ages 6-9. (Oct.)