3 Picture Books About Holidays in History | Spotlight

Bustard tells the story of a Italian priest who became a saint, Churnin writes about a female entrepreneur in the 1800s, and Strauss informs readers about the preservation of a 14th-century manuscript.

Bustard, Ned. Saint Valentine the Kindhearted: The History and Legends of God’s Brave and Loving Servant. illus. by author. 32p. IVP Kids. Jan. 2024. Tr $18. ISBN 9781514008768.
K-Gr 3–Many holidays are rooted in religious rituals, festivals, or stories. Children may not realize that Valentine’s Day did not grow from long-ago tales of little flying cupids, but rather from Saint Valentine, whose stories tell of a priest from Italy who performed Christian marriages even though the emperor commanded that he stop. Bustard’s retelling of the stories of Valentine is written completely in rhyme. Though creating a historical biography in rhyme is quite the feat, it is also a bit jarring. There are times when the rhyme feels a bit forced, and the frequent use of “Val,” instead of Valentine, feels almost too informal. Each spread includes rhyming prose on one side coupled with a brilliant print by Bustard on the other. His prints are a unique joy that convey the meaning of the accompanying prose in a fun, unusual way. VERDICT Not a necessary addition, this suits better where there is a need for Christian stories for the young about the saints.–Cassie Veselovsky

Churnin, Nancy. Valentines for All: Esther Howland Captures America’s Heart. illus. by Monika Róza Wisniewska. 32p. Albert Whitman. Nov. 2023. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780807567111.
PreS-Gr 3–A delightful picture book based on the real entrepreneur, Esther Howland, who created a successful greeting card business in the 1800s. Howland received a present from her father, a card for Valentine’s Day, when he returned from a trip to England. Even though valentines were not common in the United States in 1847, Howland was thrilled and felt loved by the gesture. This inspired her to approach her family with the idea to make valentines. Luckily, the family’s business was a paper company, S.A. Howland & Sons. Her brothers solicited business, and Howland found people were indeed interested in expressing their feelings through valentines. Soon Howland’s business became a great success. As her business grew, she hired other women to help make the Valentine’s Day cards, along with holiday and birthday cards. Bright red and pink ­illustrations compliment the Valentine’s Day theme. An author’s note includes additional information about Esther Howland, and further back matter shares ideas for making valentines cards. VERDICT A welcome addition to elementary school ­libraries that would be a great story time read-aloud for ­Valentine’s Day.–Nancy Hawkins

Strauss, Linda Leopold. Everybody’s Book: The Story of the Sarajevo Haggadah. illus. by Tim Smart. 32p. Kar-Ben. Jan. 2024. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781728486468.
Gr 2-4–The Sarajevo Haggadah is a stunning 14th-century illuminated manuscript that includes the traditional text used during the Passover Seder, along with elaborate illustrations depicting scenes from the Bible. Strauss traces its miraculous story of survival from the first owners, a Jewish bride and groom in Spain whose descendants were forced to flee from the Spanish Inquisition, to its purchase by the National Museum in Sarajevo, Bosnia in 1894. A Muslim scholar hid the precious book from the Nazis during World War II, and another professor saved it from destruction during the Bosnian War in 1991. It has since been restored and is safe again in the Bosnian National Museum. The sophisticated, textured illustrations use pencil and watercolor to help tell the story of the Haggadah’s journey. Colorful, detailed borders also give readers a sense of the artwork contained within its pages. An ­author’s note and a contemporary photograph of the Haggadah is appended. VERDICT An important story that illuminates how people of different faiths recognized the value and significance of this manuscript, one of the oldest of its kind in the world, and worked together to keep it safe.–Rachel Kamin

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