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Celebrate Valentine's Day with these literary treats for young readers.
Author/illustrator Leslie Patricelli has a knack for creating board books that appeal to both the littlest readers and their parents. That's because Patricelli knows how to inject humor even into the simplest text and illustrations, as she demonstrates once again in "Huggy Kissy" (Candlewick Press, $6.99, ages birth-3).
As the book opens, a diaper-clad toddler is demanding a "huggy" with a "tuggy" on his/her father's jeans. Of course, the delighted dad obliges and so launches a fast-paced look at all different kinds of hugs and kisses. For example, "Kitty's hug is warm and cozy/Doggy kisses with his nosey."
It may sound saccharine, but Patricelli's bright, comic illustrations eschew sentimentality and instead evoke laughter from young readers and their grown-ups.
These days, "tweeting" most often means communicating online via the social media site Twitter. But author/illustrator Susan Reagan brings "tweeting" back to basics in her new board book, "Tweet Hearts" (Robin Corey Books/Random House, $5.99, ages birth-3). Reagan's book stars two yellow birds who tweet their love as they count down from 10 to one. Young readers will particularly enjoy the end of the book, which contains a heart that pops up from the page. Reagan's cheerful illustrations add to the fun of this entertaining volume.
Goose is feeling a bit melancholy and tries to tell his concerned friends how to make him feel better. Each time Goose speaks, however, his friends interrupt him with another of their own ideas for cheering him up. In "Duck & Goose: Goose Needs a Hug" (Schwartz & Wade/Random House, $6.99, ages birth-3), author/illustrator Tad Hills shows how Goose finally tells his friends, and then receives from them, just what he needs to feel happier -- a hug. Hills' story will charm young readers, who also will enjoy his expressive illustrations. Those familiar with the "Duck & Goose" books will revel in this new board book, while newcomers to the series will find this a great place to start.
Nancy Clancy, star of the "Fancy Nancy" picture books, now has her own chapter-book series. In the just-released second volume of the series, "Nancy Clancy, Secret Admirer" (HarperCollins, $9.99, ages 6-9), author Jane O'Connor and illustrator Robin Preiss Glasser team up to tell how Nancy and best friend Bree launch "Operation Eternal Love" in an effort to pair up Nancy's guitar teacher, Andy, and her baby-sitter, Annie. As usual, things don't necessarily go as planned, but readers will have lots of fun watching Nancy and Bree try to play matchmaker.
Author/illustrator Mary Murphy whimsically explores the various kinds of kisses in the animal kingdom in "A Kiss Like This" (Candlewick Press, $12.99, ages 2-4). For example, "a giraffe kiss is gentle and tall" and "a mouse kiss is quick and small." But, as Murphy concludes at the end of her "kissing" survey, "Now there's only one kiss missing ... your kiss!"
Murphy's text is snappy and her trademark black-lined illustrations add just the right amount of sass. But young readers are likely to be most fascinated by Murphy's use of a lift-the-flap feature within each two-page spread to further the text. As Murphy writes, for example, that "A fish kiss is fizzy and bubbly," she shows a parent fish and a baby fish; readers then can open a small flap built into the right side of the two-page spread and see the words "like this!" plus an illustration of the parent kissing the baby.
Kids often are fascinated with the idea of haiku and its rules: three lines of poetry, with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second line and five in the third line. Author/illustrator Betsy Snyder shows just how fun it can be to write this kind of poetry with her new book, "I Haiku You" (Random House, $9.99, ages 5 up).
Snyder's sprightly illustrations perfectly match her upbeat verse. Each page spotlights a different haiku, but there's a theme at work here as this book is all about love. Here's an example: "Love is in the air/Every time our hearts meet up/I get butterflies." Both kids and adults will love this small-sized volume, which is perfect for gift-giving.
Poet/artist Calef Brown has combined 18 short poems with his droll artwork to create an intriguing Valentine's Day gift for kids and adults in "We Go Together!" (Houghton Mifflin, $9.99, ages 8 up).
This small volume packs a punch as Brown writes such lines as "You to me/Are like an adorable doorbell./You ring me up/And I race down the stairwell." and "We go together/Like fingers and thumbs./Basses and drums./Pastries and crumbs."
The offbeat illustrations, done in acrylics, amplify the emotions -- and the humor -- of the book.
Second-grader Heidi Heckelbeck has a secret admirer. She's pretty sure it's unlikely to be Stanley Stonewrecker, who is, after all, the best friend of Heidi's arch-enemy, Melissa Maplethorpe. But then Heidi and Stanley are paired to do an experiment for the annual Science Fair, so anything may be possible in "Heidi Heckelbeck and the Secret Admirer" (Little Simon/Simon & Schuster, $14.99, ages 6-9).
Author Wanda Coven will have readers guessing about Heidi's secret admirer as she goes through all the possibilities. Line drawings by Priscilla Burris capture the light tone of Coven's story. Readers who enjoy this book will want to move on to the next in the series, "Heidi Heckelbeck Is Ready to Dance!"