The pandemic continues to put a wedge between family and friends through the necessity of social distancing, while bringing us closer together through shared hopes and fears. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we’ve gathered a list of new and forthcoming books for young readers that affirm the value of love in its many forms.
Picture Books & Board Books
Jane Porter, illus. by Maisie Paradise Shearring. Candlewick, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5362-1123-8. Ages 3–7.
Dimitri, who has dark hair and light tan skin, spends his first day at a new preschool telling everyone and everything “I love you.” But when no one returns his declarations, he feels dejected—until his mother imparts a lesson: “When you tell people you love them,” she says, “even if they don’t say it back or show it, they feel it. That’s just the way love is.” A gentle, resonant narrative for children navigating new social-emotional spaces. The book received a starred review from PW.
Vincent X. Kirsch. Abrams, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4197-4367-2. Ages 4–8.
In this sweet queer interracial love story, Archie, a pale redhead with a penchant for suits, has a crush on his best friend, Zack, a Black boy with dark curls. By all accounts, Archie’s love is requited, but neither can muster the courage to confess.
Elias Barks, illus. by Gemma Román. Hazy Dell, $13.95 (20p) ISBN 978-1-948931-15-1. Ages 1–6.
In this installment of the Hazy Dell Love & Nurture board book series, a robot parent communicates love for a baby bot in a rhyming celebration of the duties that guardians undertake for their children. Utilizing the refrain “I’m programmed to...,” Barks surveys what guardians should offer, including safety, affection, and guidance.
Little Blue Truck’s Valentine
Alice Schertle, illus. by Jill McElmurry. HMH, $13.99 board book (20p) ISBN 978-0-358-27244-1. Ages 4 and up.
The star of the Little Blue Truck series is delivering Valentine’s Day cards to his farm animal friends. But as Blue beeps along, he starts to wonder: will he get any cards of his own?
Corrinne Averiss, illus. by Kirsti Beautyman. Words & Pictures, $18.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7112-5547-0. Ages 4–6.
When Tess, a girl with black wavy hair and light skin, must attend school, she’s scared that the golden string of love that she perceives connecting her to her family won’t stretch far enough. Her teacher offers comfort, and soon Tess befriends a boy named Harry. A reassuring read for those with separation anxiety.
Casey Rislov, illus. by Rachael Balsaitis. Casey Rislov, $7.95 (22p) ISBN 978-0-578-71394-6. Ages up to 3.
Inspired by the biblical passage 1 Corinthians 13:4–8 (“Love is patient, love is kind...”), often read at wedding ceremonies, the team behind Love Is Forever returns to showcase a sweet family of anthropomorphic owls. Instead of focusing on romantic love, though, Rislov employs the lens of familial and communal affection. The book received a starred review from PW.
Love from Giraffes Can’t Dance
Giles Andreae, illus. by Guy Parker-Rees. Orchard, $8.99 (30p) ISBN 978-1-338-66676-2. Ages 4–8.
With modified art and text from the bestselling picture book Giraffes Can’t Dance, this story reminds readers to celebrate love, music, and dance.
My Baby Loves Valentine’s Day
Jabari Asim, illus. by Nicole Whitaker. HarperFestival, $7.99 board book (20p) ISBN 978-0-06-288464-0. Ages up to 4.
The newest book in the My Baby Loves series is an #OwnVoices celebration of all the lovely things that a newborn discovers about Valentine’s Day.
Arthur Howard. Beach Lane, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4814-5840-5. Ages 4–8.
In this seasonal companion to Howard’s Hoodwinked, Mitzi, a freckled, red-haired child witch, loves every holiday except Valentine’s Day. Then she meets wild-haired Spencer, a classmate with age-appropriately appealing traits (“Spencer could spurt milk out of his nose. Spencer could wiggle his ears”). Smitten, Mitzi decides to try to win Spencer over by writing him a valentine as only a witch would.
Jason June, illus. by Lori Richmond. S&S/McElderry, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4814-8101-4. Ages 4–8.
Porcupine is excited on Valentine’s Day, using one of his quills to play Cupid to the forest’s anthropomorphic animals. After poking various animals, frustrating the forest’s denizens, Porcupine affixes a sign to a tree: “Town hall meeting to discuss the poke-y porcupine problem.” The meeting unites four couples, and Porcupine is appeased, before he receives a prickly surprise of his own.
Jonathan Stutzman, illus. by Jay Fleck. Chronicle, $7.99 (18p) ISBN 978-1-4521-8489-0. Ages 2–4.
This board book starring the pint-size, short-armed protagonist of the eponymous picture book series finds Tiny T. Rex with another dilemma. Tiny wants to make a valentine for best friend Pointy, a coral-colored stegosaurus, which results in a big mess. A sweet, dino-centric take on a classic theme: the heart behind a gift mattering more than the gift itself.
Marilyn Singer, illus. by Alette Straathof. Words & Pictures, $18.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7112-5737-5. Ages 4–8.
In a series of couplets, Singer presents the way various animals—including garter snakes, peacocks, and dance flies—court each other, compared to humans’ dating particularities. Intricate yet accessible multilayered art by Straathof washes the pages in rich colors and textures; human couples include those of varying skin tones, hair colors, and sexualities.
Crystal Maldonado. Holiday House, $18.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-8234-4717-6. Ages 14 and up.
In this body-affirmative YA novel set in New England, a self-described fat Puerto Rican American teen wrestles with insecurity as she journeys toward love and self-acceptance. Sixteen-year-old Charlotte “Charlie” Vega has never dated anyone but yearns for the real-life version of the swoonworthy romances she writes online. As Charlie’s doubts about her worthiness begin to surface, she must work through them before she sabotages the relationships closest to her heart.
Julie Halpern and Len Vlahos. Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends, $18.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-16939-6. Ages 13 and up.
Halpern and Vlahos spin a sensitive tale about two Minnesotan high school sophomores finding each other—and themselves in the process. A focus on cultural identities offers a delightful vehicle for an ensemble cast that spotlights personal growth. The novel’s candid approach and alternating voices will appeal to young audiences while introducing them to classic pop cultural love stories.
G.F. Miller. Simon & Schuster, $19.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-5344-7135-1. Ages 12 and up.
Filled with tongue-in-cheek humor, Miller’s perspective-switched take on the classic “Cinderella” dynamic augments its laughs with themes of love and personal growth. Eighteen-year-old Charity isn’t simply a popular student at Jack London High School and a member of the Poms squad: she’s a fairy godmother, charged by fate with granting the deepest inner wishes of her Cindies.
Elise Bryant. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-298283-4. Ages 14 and up.
Debut author Bryant creates a wholly genuine protagonist in Tessa, a biracial Black teen and aspiring romance author who enrolls in a prestigious program for creative writing. But even as her social life flourishes, she can’t surmount a case of writer’s block. To alleviate her fear of embarrassment and lack of romantic experience, Tessa creates her own love story with Nico, a rich, white classmate. As she grows closer to Nico, she can’t help but notice his frequent insensitivity. The book received a starred review from PW.
Kristy Boyce. HarperTeen, $11.99 paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-302591-2. Ages 13 and up.
After a humiliating rejection goes viral, Washington, D.C., high school senior Ellie, 17, swaps places with the ex-friend who’s now dating her crush, hastily joining a study abroad program. Determined to leave her embarrassment and the happy couple behind, Ellie plans to skate by academically while taking in England and landing a hot British boyfriend. Boyce keeps lighthearted humor and romance at the forefront, delivering a satisfying happy-for-now ending to a feel-good rom-com.
Lauren Morrill. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $18.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-374-30621-2. Ages 14 and up.
Being the “Hot ’N Crusty Bathroom Baby” is 16-year-old Beck Brix’s claim to fame, and the bane of her existence. The local news covered her birth on a pizza parlor ladies’ room floor, and “no one grows out of anything in a small town”—especially when she takes a job at the Hot ’N Crusty. But it’s not so bad; plus, the brusque delivery guy, Tristan, is kind of cute.
Robin Talley. HarperTeen, $17.99 (464p) ISBN 978-0-06-240926-3. Ages 14 and up.
Theater people are often superstitious, especially the kids at Beaconville High School, whose drama program’s wing is built on the site of a ruined theater and almost certainly cursed. This makes things harder for junior Melody McIntyre, the youngest stage manager in school history, but she’s up for it. So after the tech crew decides that more things go wrong when Melody’s dating someone, she agrees not to fall in love for the show’s duration, even though she’s the school’s “patron saint of serial monogamy.”
Maria E. Andreu. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $18.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-062-99651-0. Ages 14 and up.
The teen love triangle at the center of this warm and humorous novel is threaded with experiences that accompany acclimation to a new school and country. When 16-year-old narrator Ana moves with her family from Argentina to a New Jersey suburb, the transition results in awkward moments for the teen. Refreshingly, Ana is torn between two guys who are both fundamentally kind; but, as a budding poet, Ana’s real love affair is with language itself.
Wibke Brueggemann. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $17.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-374-31397-5. Ages 14 and up.
A sarcastic 15-year-old records angst—about her parents, first love and loss, and failure—in six months of achingly universal journal entries. London resident Phoebe Davis has no interest in love; in fact, she finds emotional entanglements of every kind more trouble than they’re worth. Her frank narration style manages to both entertain and inform on a wide variety of topics pertaining to sexuality and identity. The book received a starred review from PW.
Renée Watson. Bloomsbury, $18.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-5476-0060-1. Ages 13 and up.
Through the misadventures of Black 17-year-old Nala Robertson, Watson pens a love letter to community, family, and self-love. Tired of being compared to her overachieving “cousin-sister-friend” Imani, Nala, who is plus-size, just wants to be loved. But when Nala meets Tye at a function for Inspire Harlem—a community service organization where Tye and Imani are members—Nala fears Tye won’t like her if she acts like herself. So she lies.
Dana L. Davis. Inkyard, $18.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-335-07062-3. Ages 13 and up.
After seven auditions for Roman and Jewel, the upcoming Broadway “hip-hopera” reinterpretation of Romeo and Juliet, Black 16-year-old Jerzie Jhames is informed by the creative team that she’s the best Jewel they have seen—but she’ll have to play standby to “R&B sensation, double platinum, Grammy award winner” Cinny if she wants to join the production. Later, Jerzie’s instant chemistry and growing bond with leading man Zeppelin Reid creates major tension between Cinny and Jerzie.