Unlovable Love Stories!

Kissing! Hugging! UUUGGGHHH! What self-respecting kid goes in for the smoochy slop of Valentine's Day? I offer these unlovable love stories for children that slip in affection as surreptitiously as a letter from a secret admirer.

Shrek! by William Steig
"Your nose is so hairy,/ Oh, let us not tarry,/Your look is so scary,/I think we should marry." So sings the princess to the monster Shrek, uglier than both his parents put together, venting flame by the time he toddled and able to vent smoke from either ear. Children will love following this hideous character on his quest past dragons, knights and witches to find his true love. Steig's vibrant, action-packed illustrations make for a perfect marriage of text and art. For ages 6 and up.

She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not by Robert Keeshan, illustrated by Maurice Sendak
The flowers are flying as a boy and girl take turns playing the perilous petal-picking game that results in tears and triumphs in turn, to the chagrin of sympathetic cherubic onlookers. Tired by the game, the twosome are able to figure out what to do with the last posy. A charming and clever vignette by the late great man who played Captain Kangaroo. First published in 1963 and recently reissued, this timeless Valentine-sized book fits perfectly into an envelope, and will fit in the hearts of children everywhere for years to come. For ages 5 and up.

The Wedding Dress Mess by Beatrice Masini, illustrated by Anna Laura Cantone
Filomena turns into a bit of a Bridezilla after Filippo proposes, and who can blame her? She is the snazziest seamstress in all of Italy, and she has been looking forward to making her own dress. Break out the lace, the beads, the hearts, the flowers, the butterflies and yards and yards and yards of fabric! But as the plans for the gown begin to billow, the guests may be saying "where is the bride?" instead of "here comes the bride!" Frilly and oh so silly, zany collages decorate the most stylish love story to come out of Milan in this or any season. RSVP in the affirmative to attend this offbeat celebration of what really makes love grand. Makes a great shower gift, too! For ages 6 and up.

Falling for Rapunzel by Leah Wilcox, illustrated by Lydia Monks
Once upon a bad hair day, a handsome knight called up to the trixie in the tower "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your…" what? Your underwear? Your pancake batter? Your cantaloupe? Because of Rapunzel's poor hearing she never does let down what the prince is asking for, but luckily the prince isn't let down, either, when she finally sends down her lovely lady in waiting to see what all the shouting is about. A romantic, laugh-out-loud parody that will end your storytime with a happily ever after. For ages 5 and up.

Minnie and Moo: Will You Be My Valentine? by Denys Cazet
In an inspired moment, two cows decide to play cupid and deliver "love poems to the needy" throughout the barnyard. Problems arise when Minnie's aim is less than true, and the farmer's wife gets the poem intended for the turkey, while the farmer gets the goods intended for the old goat. This humor and wit is as rich as a two-pound box of chocolates, and is sure to start a love affair for emergent readers and appeal to parents as well. The "Ode to the Cream Puff" alone is worth the price of the book. For ages 5 and up.

The Ballad of Valentine by Alison Jackson, illustrated by Tricia Tusa
The mail has never been so slow as it is in the case of delivering this poor paramour's messages. Oblivious to her secret admirer, Valentine is busy with her daily chores while her sweetheart does everything from sending smoke signals to skywriting to get her attention. Children will enjoy chiming in to the tune of "Oh My darling Clementine." What a special delivery! For ages 5 and up.

Cupid and Psyche by M. Charlotte Craft, illustrated by Kinuko Craft
The illustrations in this classic Greek myth could not be more lush and golden if Midas had touched them himself! Perhaps the greatest love story of all time, thrill to the vanquishing of of Psyche's dreadfully jealous sisters, the discovery and betrayal of Psyche's invisible lover, and the victory of love over all...even death. Anyone apt to humbug romance should turn in their hard heart for a bow and arrow...this book is absolutely strikes its mark. 9 and up.

Love Letters by Arnold Adoff, illustrated by Lisa Desimini
What's Valentine's Day without some billet doux? Luckily, these aren't your average odes. Bittersweet as a box of chocolates, these celebrate affections for parents, pets, teachers, friends, and even a little love poem to one's self! My personal favorite is the love poem run off on a copy machine, to warm the hearts of many girls in class. Ages 9 and up.

My Angelica by Carol Lynch Williams
Angelica is sure she is going to be a bestselling romance novelist. And why not? Her mother is! Unfortunately, writing skills are not genetic. Angelica, however, is completely confident and totally oblivious to the fact that her love stories are lacking. It is up to her faithful boyfriend, who truly loves her, to save her from embarrassment in the school writing contest. A hilarious Valentines must-read that explodes the cliches of romance for young readers, while celebrating the love to be found readily all around us. Ages 11 and up.

Lovable Lyle by Bernard Waber
Everybody loves Lyle the Crocodile. Or do they? Notes signed "Your Enemy" keep appearing under the door of the Primm family. Who could possibly hate Lyle...and why? The mystery is solved in this sensitive story about not judging a book by its cover in order to find the loving friendship you need. Ages 6 and up.

No More Kissing! by Emma Chichester Clark
"Why does there have to be so much kissing?" a little monkey wonders in earnest, watching his primate family peck away. Even when he tells them in plain monkey-ese that he's had his fill, they still can't seem to resist giving him lip service. Uuugghhh! When a new baby arrives in the tree house, can't these guys see the baby is obviously crying because baby hates kissing too? It's big brother to the rescue in this rare and honest sibling love story, and you'll go bananas over the illustrations. 4 and up.

Ten by Vladimir Radunsky
Radunsky helps children navigate their way through the mysterious world of romance via two newlywed armadillos. Using all sorts of clever anachronisms ("Mr. amd Mrs. Armadillo like to sit n the couch and hug"), the affectionate couple soon find that they will be sharing their love with ten offspring ("hmm, a pink one! No matter, we'll love him anyway"). Hilarious scenes of Mr. Armadillo rushing his preposterously pregnant wife to the hospital or the doctor beset by the bevvy of babies in the delivery room are at once subversive and shrewd, and will tickle the funnybone of both young and old. Just when you think the party's over, in march aunts and uncles bearing potties, tutus, elephants and other bare necessities. As Armadillo Planned Parenthood quips on the back cover, "This book is a must for all those who are planning to have children but don't know how to count." Ages 5 and up.

No David! by David Shannon
The perfect celebration of unconditional love. Watch as David runs pantless down the street, chews with his mouth open, picks his nose, breaks a vase, and receives a firm time-out in the corner...ultimately to receive the hug and consolation, "yes, David, I love you." Boys and girls will delight in David's delicious destruction of all social mores, and moved by mommy's forgiveness. Prepare to hug! Ages 3 and up.

A Kiss for a Warthog by Wende and Harry Devlin
The towns of Oldwick and Quimby struggle with a roiling rivalry. Competition rears its ugly head when the Oldwick Zoo tries to outdo the Quimby zoo with an addition of a warthog named Allegra, sent special delivery by sea from Africa. But Allegra, upon seeing all the kissing between Oldwick residents refuses to leave the gangplank until she gets hers. Who will step up and kiss the warthog? Any takers? Even if you don't want a smooch, you will want to read this book about neghborly love again and again. 5 and up.

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Paul Yalowitz
Mr. Hatch's gray and lonely world is transformed when a huge box of chocolate is delivered to his door, sent by a secret admirer. Who could have sent it? By meeting his neighbors in order to find the answer, Mr. Hatch opens the floodgates for a whole host of new admirers. The community cares in this picture book that has been beloved for over ten years, and will inspire young readers to reach out as well. Tear-jerker for ages 6 and up.

You Are To Me by Rebecca Doughty
"You're roller skate/You're sun and moon/You're bicycle/you're May and June," and you're going to want to make this rhyme your anthem! What child or friend wouldn't warm from tip-top to toes upon hearing such glowing, overflowing comparisons? Even Cole Porter would have been snapping his fingers to this one. For ages 4 and up.

Granny Torrelli Makes Soup by Sharon Creech
Come, come, bring your bowl and let Granny Torelli fill it to the brim with romance! Not the horrible gushy oversexed romances of so many young adult novels, but the realistic amore between two best friends who just may grow up to be more than that. Meet Rosie and her bold, angry, exuberant Rosie self, and Bailey, Bailey, who is usually so nice, oh Bailey, are you really going to fall for that Janine down the street, who thinks she is a movie star? Jealous? Pah! Luckily, Granny Torelli is in the kitchen, cooking up stories of her life in Italy, teaching Rosie and that Bailey boy that life is too short not to show the ones you love that you really love them. The fact that Bailey is blind is woven naturally into the story, and does not seem nearly as big of an impediment as Rosie's colorful temper. Powerful voices and truths make this a nourishing main course that you will love to serve up to children at that awkward age where the interest in the opposite sex is beginning to bloom. (11 and up)

Porcupining: A Prickly Love Story by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Janie Bynum
"No petting" reads the sign outside the porcupine's pen, but this prickly prince pines for the loving touch. He serenades the zoo with woo-ful reults, ultimately making the point that there's someone out there for everyone, so stick to it! Are you groaning? Good, now you are prepared for the puns a-plenty that you'll find in this funny book. For ages 5 and up.

The Love-Me Bird by Joyce Dunbar, illustrated by Sophie Fatus
You know those types that are just, well, how do I put this? High maintenance? Although pretty in pink, the Love-Me Bird's booty call comes off as a bit needy. Shut-Eye the owl is generous with his advice until eventually she learns to sing the tune that will get her the mate she yearns for. Though I was somewhat disappointed that Love-Me Bird didn't hook up with the owl, at least he still gets what he loves best in the end. Read it and find out what that is! Hoo-hoo! For ages 5 and up.

That Crazy Barb'ra by Milton Schafer, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Ohh, that Barb'ra! Has to be on my team! Steals my clothes at the water hole! Moons over me on the school bus! Leans all over my desk! Hubert Clumpty is absolutely positive that he will never, ever, ever marry Barb'ra…at least not until someday. This book hits the target of little boys who are fawned over by girls striken with cupid's arrow, but still have a little growing up to do. Hang in there, Barb'ra! For ages 6 and up.

King and King by Linda De Haan, illustrated by Stern Nijland
The prince is being nagged by his mother to hurry up and get married despite his assertion that he "never cared much for princesses," but to appease the matriarch he goes on the manditory search for the fairest maiden in the land. The tale takes an unconventional twist when the brother of Princess Madeleine catches his majesty's eye. It's love at first sight in this royally refreshing love story that celebrates an alternative lifestyle, a.k.a love in all its forms. For ages 6 and up.

TrueLove by Babette Cole
"Love makes you strong." "Love makes your heart sing." "Love makes you do silly things sometimes." There are so many truths to love, and who better to share them than the most lovable member of the family…the dog? At least, he was number one until the baby came along! Illustrations help tell a whole other story, and ultimately reassures readers with the biggest truth of all: "love isn't easy, but there's always enough to go around." Funny, honest and touching, this unassuming book makes no bones about going deep into the heart of things. You will truly love it! For ages 5 and up.

Kiss Kiss! by Margaret Wild and Bridget Strevens-Marzo
Baby Hippo wanders off for a day's adventures, but it seems there is something he forgot to do. The PDA's of rhinos, elephants, lions, zebras and monkeys are all reminders of what he has been missing. Hurry home, Baby Hippo, and collect what is rightfully yours! Pucker up, because this touching tale of jungle love is sure to score you some smooches at laptime. For ages 3 and up.

Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink by Diane DeGroat
A must-read before you start making valentines! Friends have a terrible misunderstanding, resulting in some poignant and heart-piercing poetry being written on cards. Can this cast of animal classmates stop seeing red so that they can enjoy the holiday? The answer will tickle you pink. For ages 5-8.

Richard Kennedy: Collected Stories by Richard Kennedy
Contained in the collection is one of my favorite anti-mush love stories of all time, "The Porcelain Man," about a sheltered girl who makes the man of her dreams out of porcelain. When her father accidentally smashes him, things take a very unexpected twist. You'd need a heart of glass...or porcelain...not to love this collection. For ages 8 and up.

Have these books brought out the hopeless romantic in you? Then try these other pretty-in-pink picture books for Valentine's Day!
One Zillion Valentines by Frank Modell
Little Mouse's Big Valentine by Thacher Hurd
Four Valentines in a Rainstorm by Felicia Bond
The Ballad of Valentine by Alison Jackson, illustrated by Tricia Tusa
One Very Best Valentine's Day by Joan W. Blos, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
Yucka Drucka Droni by Vladimir Radunsky
Love Is by Wendy Anderson Halperin (from Corinthians 13)
A Village Full of Valentines by James Stevenson
Sloppy Kisses by Elizabeth Winthrop (You may have to go to the public library for this one...well worth the trip!)
A Book of Hugs or A Book of Kisses, both by David Ross
Valentine's Day by Anne Rockwell
What Kind of Kiss? by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
A Hug Goes Around by Laura Kraus Melmed
The Grandma Hunt by Nina Matthis
I'll Give You Kisses by Diane Paterson
It All Began With Jane Eyre : Or, the Secret Life of Franny Dillman by Sheila Greenwald (for 11 and up)

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