Wednesday, February 14, 2007

and what the heck

My all-time favorite Valentine's book for kids:

The Day It Rained Hearts (Previously published as Four Valentines in a Rainstorm) written and illustrated by Felicia Bond. 1983; HarperCollins, 2004 (0-06-054442-2) $6.99 board book

Far less mushy than you might expect from the title, this Valentine's Day favorite embraces thoughtfulness and creativity. When it begins to rain hearts one day, a little girl catches several and turns them into valentines, each one perfectly designed for its intended recipient: A dog receives a new collar made of hearts; a mouse gets a valentine full of holes, like a swiss cheese. Bond's illustrations use shaded backgrounds, giving a richer, warmer tone to her usual whimsical watercolors, The final pictures, in which we see how happily each valentine is received, are especially appealing. (2-6)

review: Twilight

I'm not sure this review is done, but I just had to post it for Valentine's Day

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. Little, Brown, 2005 (0-316-16017-2) $17.99; 2006 (978-0-31601584-4) $8.95 trade

I was a little girl, a very nervous little girl, when Charles Manson was big in the news; I still distinctly remember a dream from those days, in which Manson tenderly assured me that he was my friend and would never kill me or anyone in my family. Perhaps this is a common fantasy--interestingly, Meyer says Twilight was inspired by a vivid dream, which she transcribed as a love scene in the book--since I am clearly not the only little girl who grew up to adore stories about powerful, dangerous creatures who are incredibly protective of those they love. Although this version was published for teens, the romance is so exquisitely drawn, it has appeal for much older readers.

Twilight begins with a bang--"I'd never given much thought to how I would die--though I'd had reason enough in the last few months--but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this"--then steps back to describe the events that lead to that fearful moment. Seventeen-year-old Bella comes to live with her father in a small town in Washington, though she hates the annoyingly rainy place where everyone knows everyone else's business. Her transition to a new high school becomes much rougher when she becomes lab partners with the gorgeous and aloof Edward Cullen, who seems to hate her almost on sight. (Later, she will learn it was not on sight, but on smell. Bella smells much, much too good.)

When Edward saves Bella from being crushed by a car, her interest in him becomes even more intense. How did he move so fast? Why does he still refuse to talk to her? Bella narrates her story with an easy grace that allows it to build slowly yet tautly, as we see the growing evidence that something is very different about Edward, as well as Bella's growing obsession with him. A feeling, she learns, that is returned: Edward doesn't hate her, he fears--with very good reason--that being with him will hurt her. "'I know that at some point, something I tell you or something you see if going to be too much. And then you'll run away from me screaming as you go.' He smiled half a smile, but his eyes were serious. 'I won't stop you. I want this to happen, because I want you to be safe.'" But nothing Edward tells her or shows her could make Bella run: she's in love for the first time, and it's her entire world.

To appreciate Twilight, you have to be as fascinated with Edward as Bella is, since it seems as if two-thirds of the book is description of him--Edward speaking, Edward reacting, Edward simply being unbelievably attractive. Despite its suspense and paranormal aspects, Twilight is first and foremost romance. For those who love the fantasy, it delivers--like a dream. * (13 & up)