This Is Not a Valentine

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
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Fresh take on the holiday reflects down-to-earth friendship.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows regular activities of a school day.

Positive Messages

The best valentines are the ones you make on your own, not the ones the teacher tells the class to make. Even getting cooties would be fun with your special friend: "But if you get the cooties and I get the cooties, then we can have cherry juice and chicken soup with rice together." When you like someone, you like that person every day. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The boy main character and narrator is kind, thoughtful, generous, creative. The girl is nice, cheerful, appreciative of the boy's notes, gifts, and attention. Diverse kids are shown engaged in their classes, including science, playing well together, and patiently lined up at the water fountain. 

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that This Is Not a Valentine, by Carter Higgins and illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins, follows a boy who gives notes and small gifts to the girl he likes throughout the school day. He insists each one is not a valentine, because it's not pink, glittery, or lacy. It's hard and jagged, for example, when he gives her his lucky rock for hopscotch. All his gifts reflect how well he knows and admires her (like when he gives her a cape because she's his favorite superhero). It's a fresh take on the holiday tradition and a sweet story of friendship and innocent young romance.

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What's the story?

A little boy with light skin sees the brown-skinned girl he likes on the school bus and then gives her various small gifts and notes throughout the school day. The first note says, THIS IS NOT A VALENTINE, "since sparkle and pink and glitter are not your favorite colors." He goes on to give her a dandelion bouquet, a ring from a grocery store machine, and a red cape, because "red is good for superheroes, and you are my favorite one." He gives her the jelly side of his peanut butter and jelly sandwich and even his lucky rock for their hopscotch game, noting, "This is not a valentine since it's got sharper edges than dainty old lace." The books ends as they ride home on the school bus, seated together this time, and he says, "This is not a valentine since I don't only like you today. I like you tomorrow and next Tuesday and last week, too."

Is it any good?

This unique Valentine's Day-themed book offers an utterly fresh take on a holiday tradition that can sometimes seem too mushy and too commercial. This Is Not a Valentine makes clear how much the boy likes the girl but in very real, down-to-earth ways. It's the way best friends or sweethearts can feel: You're my favorite person to spend time with every day, and I appreciate what makes you special.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how This Is Not a Valentine describes the feelings the boy has for the girl without being mushy. Does it sound like friendship? Does it seem romantic? Have you ever felt that way about someone special? 

  • How do you feel about your best friend, your parents, your brother and sister? Is it all love? Are there different kinds of love?

  • Is there someone you look forward to seeing every day? How is the day different when that person isn't there? 

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love love and friendship

Themes & Topics

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