Reviews of children's and young adult books old and new

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Valentine's Day Facts

The Story of Valentine's Day by Clyde Robert Bulla illustrated by Susan Estelle Kwas

I have long defended Valentine's day as a "real" holiday. I know that the card, candy, and flower companies have used it to their benefit and commercialized it to no end, but I have always believed that there was a real holiday in there somewhere. Apparently not. According to this book Valentine's Day was loosely based on an old Roman holiday that was actually a celebration of spring. Love didn't really enter into at all. Girls would write their names on a piece of paper, drop it into an urn, and then the boys would pick a name and that would be their partner for the games and dances that followed. When Christians came along they moved up the date to February and renamed it for a saint.

I am very sad. I thought there would be some better origin than this. The book itself though is very good. Each page spread has a large illustration and one page of text. The reader is taken from ancient Rome to today hitting some of the major changes in the celebration of the holiday along the way. It was interesting to learn that in Germany for awhile boys used to have to write down the names of saints, pick one from a jar, and then they were supposed to try and live like that saint for a year. (I can see why that custom did not catch on.) And that it was the French who started the giving of flowers to your valentine. The text is easy to follow and it is at a third or fourth grade reading level but I think it might work better as a read aloud.

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