CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 5 . . . . October 6, 2017
This book is most certainly not a valentine, or at least that is what the narrator would like you to believe. No, this book is not a valentine because those are frilly and pink with mushy words written in swoopy cursive. Our bespectacled, sentimental protagonist knows that those things we most closely relate to traditional Valentine's Day fare would not feel right in the hands of his friend. In his eyes, she is a jelly sandwich eating superhero with whom he enjoys spending time, and thus she is deserving of so much more than a glitter infested, cavity-inducing valentine. Through gorgeous brush marker, gouache, graphite, colored pencil, crayon, ink, and charcoal illustrations, and equally lovely, lyrical words, Higgins and Cummins reveal to the reader that there are many ways to show someone you care about them – today, tomorrow, next Tuesday and last week, too!
This is NOT a Valentine is such a relatable read for children. The boy and the girl in the book are clearly great friends, and friendship means knowing and celebrating all the little details that make up a wonderful person. The repetition of the sentiment "this is not a valentine" really forces the child to reconsider what the best ways are to show someone that you love them. A beautiful card, covered in pink sparkles, is a sweet token of affection, but it is not the only way to say I love you, and Valentine's Day is likewise not the only time to make your feelings known.
There is something very charming about the illustrations – each line feels purposeful, each page feels complete though imperfect. They match the tone of the book – unique, simple, and graceful. This is NOT a Valentine is a great read for February, but since it assures us it is not a valentine, I recommend enjoying it any time of year.
Amber Allen, a librarian and mother of a preschooler living in Guelph, ON, has a passion for children's literature and writing.