When I was younger, The Valentine Bears, written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Jan Brett was one of my favorite books. The book tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. Bear, who wake up from hibernation to celebrate Valentine’s Day together. Mrs. Bear has planned so many surprises for Mr. Bear, but first she has to wake him up!
The book highlights fun Valentine’s day traditions, such as giving poems and candy, but from a bear perspective, for example, giving chocolate-covered ants. While the plot is not the most exciting, it unfolds naturally and is simple enough for a child to easily follow. Sentence structure is also simple, but there is enough variety in the sentences that the story does not feel choppy. The vocabulary throughout the book is sophisticated but still accessible.
The illustrations in the book are also simple- gray-scale line drawings with highlights of reds and yellows. Their aesthetic appeal lies in how subdued they are, with depth and interest being added through a range of values. Children would find the pictures interesting because of how the bears are portrayed as both human-like and bear-like.
While the book does not stand out at first glance, children will appreciate the sweet story. It would be a perfect addition to a preschool or kindergarten unit about Valentine’s day, but it could also be used to support learning about how bears live, such as how they hibernate or what they eat. Highlighting the importance of showing people we love them, the book has found a beloved place on many children’s shelves.
Reviewed by: Rachel Riendeau