Books for Kids: Love is universal

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With Valentine’s Day just a couple of weeks away, this seems a perfect time to highlight a few picture books with “Love” in the title.

Love Is in the Bear
By Judith Henderson
Illustrated by Nahid Kazemi
Owlkids Books
Ages 4 to 7

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Love Is in the Bear, by author Judith Henderson and illustrator Nahid Kazemi, both based in Montreal, tells the story of a bear who awakens in the spring, having hibernated all winter, and greets the creatures he finds outside his tree hollow, all of whom are happy to see him. The sound of a chickadee especially entrances Bear; when she tells him she’s practising to be in the opera and “trying out for the duet,” he’s intrigued. “What’s a duet?” he asks, and Bird explains it’s “when there are two singers, singing together.”

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When she asks if he can sing, Bear says yes and gives forth with some loud, growly GARARRRs, catching Bird off guard. Tactfully, she says his voice is very basso profundo — “a low, low voice that makes a heart tremble” — while hers is soprano, “a high, high voice that makes a heart flutter.”

Bear asks if he can try out for the opera, too, and Bird agrees to practise with him. The unlikely duo sing together while they go about their daily activities and eventually their voices harmonize. Bird agrees it’s a duet, but when they audition for the opera Bear is not chosen to sing with her. Instead, she’s paired with a frog. Bear is crushed, but when Bird asks if he’ll come and watch her in the opera, he nods. Perched up in a tree, Bear “sang softly along” since he knew all the words by heart.

While they don’t perform together in the opera, Bear and Bird remain close friends throughout the summer and fall, preparing for winter together. And when Bear gets ready to enter his tree hollow to sleep, he asks Bird if she would come and watch him. “All winter long,” she says, because she loves him. Just as Bear loves Bird, “even in his sleep.”

An illustration of a child holding up a letter to a baby, surrounded by two parents. A yellow heart is a backdrop for the picture, and the title All Our Love is at the top.

All Our Love
By Kari-Lynn Winters
Illustrated by Scot Ritchie
North Winds Press
Ages 3 to 8

Sofia is getting ready to be a big sister, writing a welcoming letter to the baby her parents are expecting. “You’ll see that Dad loves music,” she writes. “Jazz is his favourite. … Daddy will teach you how to swing a bat and run the bases.” At this point, sharp-eyed readers (and listeners) may catch on that St. Catharines, Ont., author Kari-Lynn Winters has something of a surprise in store for them, one that’s confirmed when Vancouver-based illustrator Scot Ritchie depicts Sofia and Dad arriving at the hospital — where Daddy is holding baby Oliver.

“You might get asked / why we have / a Dad and a Daddy,” Sofia has written in the letter, telling her new brother: “We’re just lucky, I guess!”

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