Saturday, January 31, 2009


Valentine, by Carol Carrick and illustrated by Paddy Bouma, is a very sweet story. Early in the morning, little Heather is asking her mother to stay home because it is Valentine's Day. But Mama explains that while she would rather stay home with her daughter, even though it is Valentine's day, she still has to go to work. Heather will stay with Grandma, who she and her mother live with.

Grandma tries to cheer her granddaughter up by having her help with baking some Valentine cookies. To Heather, the cookie dough feels like the clay at day care. She cuts out cookies in the shapes of Grandma's animals, and she in anxious to eat them. But Grandma tells Heather she has to wait: they have to bake first...

Heather sighed. She always had to wait. Wait for Valentine's Day. Wait for cookies to bake. Wait for Mama to come home.

The first batch of cookies are put in to bake, and Grandma suggests they check on Clover, her favorite sheep. Clover is expecting. Heather, bundled up against the cold, brings her favorite blanket along. Grandma announces that Clover had her babies. Grandma sees two little lambs feeding. But, Heather notices a third little lamb laying behind Clover. Heather asks her grandmother if it is dead. Grandma picks it up: "'I think I can feel his breath', she said. 'Let's take him insdie where it's warm.'"

Heather watches as Grandma gives the lamb a warm bath in the kitchen sink. When Grandma asks for a towel to wrap the lamb in, Heather brings out her own towel. But, he still wasn't moving.

Then, Heather smelled the cookies that had been put in to bake before checking on Clover. Grandma says, "I forgot. Good thing I have you to help me," and she has Heather hold the lamb while she gets the cookies from the oven. Heather thought the cookies were a little to brown, but Grandma says they taste better that way...

Heather is still worried about the little lamb. He hasn't been moving, or opened his eyes. She worries the lamb is going to die. Grandma unwraps the towel a little. She feels the lamb's heartbeat, and has Heather feel it, too. Then, she brings out Mama's hairdryer out to help dry the lamb. He makes a small noise.

Heather holds him again while Grandma prepares a one of Heather's old baby bottles with warm milk. Grandma gives the bottle to the lamb, and he begins to feed.

He began sucking noisily, pulling at the bottle with his mouth. Under Heather's blanket, the lamb's tail wagged. That made Heather laugh.

The lamb finished the bottle and let out a bleat. Heather asks Grandma if he will out back to his mother in the barn. Grandma explains that Clover will need help with taking care of the littlest lamb, so he'll stay in the house for a while. Heather is happy to take care of him, and put him down for a nap in the laundry basket.

Grandma bakes the rest of the cookies, including the heart-shaped one for Mama. When Mama gets home from work, Heather shows off the lamb and announces his name is Valentine.

Then Heather showed Mama the cookie cats, and the chickens, and the little sheep that looked like Grandma's.

"I made this heart for you," said Heather, "because I love you."

"And I love you, too," said Mama.

"M-a-a," called Valentine, lifting his head.

Valentine is recommended for children between the ages of 5 and 8. It does address something that might otherwise be difficult to broach with small children: death. Heather, it would seem, isn't old enough to be in school yet. But, she lives on a farm and understands that the little lamb isn't okay and that there is the possibility it might die. Also, learning patience is a theme - Heather has to wait for many things she wants. Another thing I noted is that there is no father, or even grandfather, in the story. Why isn't really important (Is Mama widowed, divorced, or an unwed mother?), nor do I criticize the story for it. While a home with a mother and a father is ideal, that isn't always the reality. But, Heather does live in a safe and loving home, and that is the important thing.

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