Kidlit: Hugs & Love for Valentine’s Day

by Alli Brydon, a children’s book editor and writer based in the New York City, who has generously agreed to help us expand our childrens’-book libraries. 

While Valentine’s Day is supposedly made for sweethearts, I think it’s really made for kids.

What other section of our population so freely expresses love? Who else wears their hearts on their sleeves so readily? I regularly get little sticky notes and selfie videos from my kids declaring their love and devotion. And that’s year-round. So, my kids are super excited to celebrate the “official” day of love and share little cards, candy, and anything heart-shaped with classmates, teachers, friends, and family. Naturally, I looked to the local library for books with the themes of hugs, kisses, security, love, and…monsters?

Here are four books to enjoy together this Valentine’s Day…

Valensteins, by Ethan Long, combines the best of both worlds: icky monsters and icky LOVE. This picture book made us laugh out loud multiple times, with a variety of funny monsters questioning the Valentine-crafting session of another monster named Fran. Are those paper hearts fangs? A nose? A…butt?! When they find out Fran is possibly in LOVE, well—EWWW! Verdict: big laughs, no scares, huge love. (For ages 3 – 6)

Hug Machine, by Scott Campbell, features the sweetest little boy who declares himself the “Hug Machine.” He hugs anything and everything: people, animals, a mailbox. This book is great because it shows a variety of reasons and purposes for giving hugs: to “calm people down,” “cheer them up,” and to make “the smallest feel big.” I found it to be a subtle lesson in sharing feelings and sympathizing with others, and also how to hug a whale. (Available in board for ages 2 – 4 and hardcover for ages 4 – 8)

Hug Time, by Patrick McDonnell, showcases the beloved animal characters from his MUTTS cartoon. This one is pretty much a classic now. Jules, an adorable line-drawn kitten, knows that hugs make the world a better place, so he creates a “Hug To-Do List” and sets out to hug the whole world! This one also teaches you how to hug a whale. I sense a trend coming on! My favorite moment: “Jules discovered a species brand-new. / Kneeling, he whispered, ‘We welcome you.’” If that’s not an entry point to a conversation about acceptance, I don’t know what is. (Available in board for ages 2 – 4 and hardcover for ages 5 – 6)

Love Is, by Diane Adams and Claire Keane, is a lyrical exploration of a loving relationship between a little girl and a little duck. Unconventional pet? Check! Parallels to growing children? Check! Heartbreaking moment of flight? Check! With art that has a familiar, midcentury vibe, it will bring feelings of nostalgia to older readers and feelings of security to younger ones. This book is not saccharine; it’s just the right amount of sweet. You’ll love reading it out loud, and want to hug your kids a little closer as you do. (Ages 2 – 5)

This Valentine’s Day (and every day), snuggle with your little loves and enjoy!

P.S. More Kidlit posts.

Alli Brydon is a children’s book editor and writer based in the New York City area. With nearly 15 years of experience developing, editing, and selling children’s books with US publishing houses, she has spent a large part of her career nurturing writers and illustrators to reach their potential. Having worked both as an acquiring editor and as an agent for children’s book author/illustrators, Alli has a unique blend of skills and an insider’s view of the industry. If you love reading kidlit and/or are curious about writing your own, please drop in at to learn more, sign up to receive her blog posts by email, or just say “hi!”

[Lead image from Love Is, illustration by Claire Keane (Chronicle Books); all other cover images from their respective links]

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