It’s not that there’s anything wrong with pink glitter and cuddly bunnies and conversation hearts. Not at all. But as Valentine’s Day approaches this year, on this day and every day I want my girls to know that love reaches beyond the bounds of sugary language and fluffy animals. I want them to be assured of how deeply loved they are, and I want them to know that love takes effort and strength and sacrifice. Relationships just don’t endure otherwise.
So, here are my *alternative* Valentine’s Day book recommendations for you, my friends! These are stories of love. True, deep, relentless love that thinks of another over oneself. Love between siblings and parents and even strangers. Love in East Africa, West Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Love that pushes boundaries and is willing to sacrifice because, well, that is the type of love upon which relationships are sustained.
Each of these books is very well loved in our home, and I hope you enjoy them too!
8 Love Stories for Children
Italy | Ages 2-5 | Amazon
This little board book is a brief but delightful introduction to the historic roots of St. Valentine in Rome. Valentine adored children, and even risked his freedom to help young men and women after the king made a law that they couldn’t get married. On Valentine’s Day we remember heroes like Valentine who sacrificed much for the sake of love.
Ancient Israel | Ages 4-10 | Barefoot Books
It is said that Solomon told this story of love between two brothers. Each brother has such great love and compassion that he is willing to give generously of the food he so diligently harvested in order to provide for the other. It is said that the place between their two villages where the brothers meet is the site where Jerusalem was later established.
United States | Ages 3-8 | Barefoot Books
Billy works tirelessly in his grandpa’s vegetable patch, gleaning from his wisdom of how all living things work together to bear fruit. While Billy’s admiration of his grandpa is so very evident, I am particularly struck by grandpa’s willingness to work so closely alongside his loved one. Their love is nurtured by caring for each other while caring for the land.
Kenya/Tanzania | Ages 3-6 | Amazon
A Maasai boy lyrically poses a series of questions about how much his father loves him. His father’s response is always one of profound care, protection, and forgiveness when mistakes are made. The text and illustrations are a poetic portrayal of a parent’s unconditional love, even and especially when it means giving up of themselves.
Cambodia | Ages 5-10 | Barefoot Books
Dara is a Cambodian princess known throughout the land for her clever mind and excellent architectural skills. When she and Rith, a fellow architect, fall in love, theirs is one of true partnership. It is Dara’s relentless love for Rith that drives her to foil the plan of some wicked ministers, and her brains that allow her succeed in saving her beloved husband.
Nepal | Ages 4-10 | Barefoot Books
Nepali sisters Chandra and Deena go to great lengths to care for their baby brother whose hacking cough is caused by their family’s kerosene lamp. When a man selling solar powered lamps comes to their village, it is the sisters’ entrepreneurial spirit and love for their brother that drive them to devise a plan for purchasing their family’s own solar lamp.
Niger | Ages 3-8 | Amazon
Penda lovingly carries a bowl of milk up sand dunes and across a river and through a herd of desert jinns to her papa, who is tending their sheep under the shade of a mango tree. This book speaks not only to the love of a daughter for her daddy, but also to the father’s most gracious response to his daughter when – to her dismay – a mango drops in the bowl of milk.
Israel | Ages 7+ | Barefoot Books
Among this beautiful collection of tales, “Challah in the Ark” is perhaps my favorite. Eliana’s love for and desire to serve God compel her to leave freshly baked challah in the synagogue each week. When she is initially distraught to learn that the synagogue sweeper has been eating her bread, Eliana comes to learn that “caring for other people is the best way that you can serve God.”
This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you (either click on the photo or the title of the book). If you place an order through my Barefoot Books links, be sure to use the code NEWYEAR to receive 1 free book for every 3 you purchase!