The Candy Smash is Jacqueline Davies most recent addition to the Lemonade War series (HMH, $15.99). Like Davies’s previous books (The Lemonade War, The Lemonade Crime, and The Bell Bandit), The Candy Smash contains a central theme around which the plot and chapters are organized. This time it’s writing. As usual, Davies does an excellent job showcasing different perspectives about the theme. Jessie, always pragmatic, is working on writing a newspaper. She approaches her self-assigned editorial job with structured design, following the rules of journalism to the letter. Evan, on the other hand, enjoys the emotions that envelop him during the class’s morning poetry reading. He plays with words, letting them swirl and play freely. This story takes place in February so the looming prospect of Valentine’s Day is wrecking a bit of havoc on their fourth grade classroom. When Jessie decides to investigate class crushes, she dances dangerously close to exposing too much and unwittingly embarrassing her classmates. Evan does intercede — thankfully because I was really starting to get worried. Although he protects his classmates, his own dabbling in poetry teaches him to take a few emotional risks of his own. Another incredibly satisfying book by Davies. Kids and 4th grade teachers will eat this one up.
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. I thought I’d compile a list of my favorite literary relationships. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some important ones, but here they are in no particular order.
Elizabeth and Darcy. Yes, yes. I’m one of those people. Every time I reread Pride & Prejudice I enjoy watching how their relationship slowly develops and how they influence each other’s perspectives. I like that they are both thoughtful even when it comes to their own errors and mistakes.
Nick and Norah. One of the things I love about Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist is that the two characters from the book are quite different from the two characters in the movie, but I like both of them equally, although for different reasons.
Annie and Liza from Annie on My Mind. I didn’t read this novel until my first year out of college. I was living in New York and had was in the middle of the end (things never seem to just end) of my first serious relationship. This book is so lovely it broke my heart all over again.
Morgan and Arthur in The Mists of Avalon epitomize the experience of unfulfilled love. Bradley is genius at making you desperately want them to be together even though you know it can’t possibly be.
Vicky and Adam from A Ring of Endless Light and Troubling a Star. I’m not sure if Vicky and Adam ever really get together, but when I was in high school, I thought the scenes of them swimming with dolphins were unbelievably romantic.
Lola and Cricket from Lola and the Boy Next Door. I really thought this book would be a guilty pleasure and was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed the book and appreciated watching Lola and Cricket’s friendship develop.
Celie and Shug from The Color Purple. I love it when you read a book that is really hyped and then discover that it’s better than the hype suggested.
Hazel and August from The Fault in Our Stars. See comments for The Color Purple. Also, Hazel and August know how to make life count.
Other contenders include Paul and Noah (Boy Meets Boy), Chester and Wilson (Chester’s Way), and Rosalind and Orlando (As You Like It). I’m sure I’ll think of others that I wish I had included as the day goes on, but who are your favorite literary couples?
Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Paul Yalowitz (Aladdin, $7.99) is another lovely Valentine’s Day book that defies the commercialism of Valentine’s Day. Spinelli’s books are always a delight and this one is no different. Mr. Hatch is a lonely, Willy Lomanesque character, who works in a factory, and goes home, but experiences no real enjoyment in his life: “Mr. Hatch was tall and thin and he did not smile”. One Valentine’s Day, he unexpectedly receives a ginormous box of chocolates, with the note, “Somebody loves you!” Delighted to discover that he has a secret admirer, Mr. Hatch smiles, helps his neighbors, smiles, takes care of kids and pets, smiles, offers his assistance to local business owners, and smiles. He invites all of his new friends from the neighborhood over to his place one afternoon; “Everyone danced”. Then the postman shows up again and regretfully informs Mr. Hatch that there had been a mix-up in the delivery. The chocolates weren’t meant for him. Turns out Mr. Hatch doesn’t have a secret admirer after all. But when he stops helping, stops smiling, and stops talking to his neighbors, his new friends notice. Maybe somebody DOES love Mr. Hatch!
Holiday titles can often be quite hit and miss. There is an undercurrent of commercialism that drives a lot of the books published around each holiday and is reflected in the quality. Fortunately, there are always a few books that offer redemption. For Valentine’s Day, one of those books is i haiku you! by Betsy E. Snyder (Random House, $9.99). There are a few others; expect to see them mentioned here over the next couple of weeks. I was delighted to see Snyder’s new book, because I think her Haiku Baby book is absolutely adorable. i haiku you! contains a variety of haikus about different kinds of love. The haikus themselves are very sweet and well written, demonstrating creativity and insight. I also appreciate the variety of relationships demonstrated throughout the book: friends, kid/dog, kid/popsicle. There are loves thwarted and loves lost, loves reciprocated and loves found. It’s the kind of book I wanted to send to my best friend, with a note: “see that little girl mailing a letter? the one with this haiku?”
while we are apart,
stars wink a message to you
i (twinkle) love you
“yeah, that’s totally how I feel. miss you.”
And then there is the kid home sick in bed:
noodles so yummy,
love letters for your tummy —
warm alphabet soup
I appreciate so much that this little book contains a love poem dedicated to alphabet soup. The dog who has to watch his friend ride away in a school bus is heartbreaking, but *spoiler alert*, true love always returns.
i haiku you! is a delightful book because it can be shared with so many different loves in your life. Read it to your kids, send it to your parents, give it to your partner, your best friend, or one of your siblings. Snyder’s haikus celebrate the variety of love. Something the Valentines’ Day industry often forgets.