Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Review - This Is Not a Valentine

This Is Not a Valentine
by Carter Higgins
illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins
Date: 2017
Publisher: Chronicle Books (CA)
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 48
Format: e-book
Source: library

This book is not a valentine. It doesn't have lacey edges or sugary hearts. But it is full of lucky rocks, secret hiding spots, and gumball machine treasures. This is a book about waiting in line and wishing for cinnamon buns. About recognizing that if you care so much about someone not thinking you care, maybe you really do. But wait--isn't that exactly what love is about? Maybe this book is sort of a valentine after all. A testament to handmade, wacky, bashful, honest love--sure to win over the hearts of all readers--this offering from debut picture book author Carter Higgins and children's book veteran Lucy Ruth Cummins is the perfect gift to celebrate every relationship, from parent to child, sibling to sibling, partner to partner, crush to crush.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

There were parts of this book that I liked, but there were some others that seemed kind of problematic, and the whole thing felt a bit uneven to me.

Mainly, the thing I noticed is that the book feels dated. There are mentions of cursive (which isn't even taught anymore), a kid giving the jelly side of her PB&J to her friend (let's hope he doesn't have a deadly peanut allergy), and the mention of a number of old-fashioned games (that I'm not even sure are played anymore). As an adult, all of those things would be something I could imagine being in a book written for kids when I was a kid myself... decades ago. So it almost seems like a case of the author being a little out of touch.

Some of the "non-Valentines" are sweet, like the cheap ring that matches the girl's best shoelaces or the self-portrait she draws for the boy, even though the green marker was the only one that worked. The idea of this book is nice, showing that tokens of affection don't always have to be traditional, store-bought gifts or cards; in these cases, it really is the thought behind the "non-Valentines" that counts.

The artwork... was odd. The kids are fine, and they represent sort of a middle ground. There are a few illustrations that are ultra-realistic in comparison, and then a few (like the bus driver! What is up with the bus driver?!) that are so basic that it almost looked like someone forgot to finish them. So the visual aspect of the book seemed very uneven.

Overall, this wasn't terrible, and I thought the underlying premise was sweet. But the dated feeling and inconsistent artwork kind of brought my rating down a bit.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.17 out of 5

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