Valensteins

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Valensteins Book Poster Image
Monsters learn about love in funny Valentine's Day tale.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Funny story meant to entertain, but it does show the Valentine's Day tradition of cutting out and giving hearts to someone you care about. It also explains a few things about what it feels like to be in love and what people in love sometimes do (kiss on the lips). 

Positive Messages

"Love isn't about being mushy mushy or fluttering your eyes or kissing someone on the lips ... and it certainly isn't about cutting out paper hearts. ... It's about something you feel in your real heart, even if it does feel a little funny sometimes." 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Fran K. Stein is sweet, thoughtful, and romantic, as is his gentle sweetheart. Bunny drives the action in the story by explaining what love is and what people in love do. 

Violence & Scariness
Language

Two different characters comment that a cut-out paper heart looks like a "butt." 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ethan Long's Valensteins is a funny Valentine story starring monsters from his Halloween-themed book Fright Club. The sweethearts here are Fran K. Stein and a girl who looks a lot like the love interest in The Bride of Frankenstein. Fran is not scary -- he's busy cutting out a pink heart to give his gal. The cartoon-like art is delightful and the humor on point, as a werewolf, vampire, witch, ghost, and mummy all shriek "EEEEWWW!" when told that two people in love sometimes kiss on the lips! It's a fresh, fun take on Valentine's Day that little ones will eat up (along with candy hearts). 

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What's the story?

In VALENSTEINS, characters from Ethan Long's Fright Club -- Vladimir the vampire, a witch, a mummy, a ghost, and a werewolf, plus a bunny, a turtle, and a squirrel -- are assembled in their tree house when they notice the big green-faced, flat-topped Fran K. Stein cutting something out of pink construction paper. The mummy holds it upside down and says, "It  looks like a paper butt!" Then Bunny turns it right side up and says, "This is a heart, everyone! When you love someone, you cut one of these out and and give it to them on Valentine's Day!" The witch looks shocked and asks, "Do you think Fran ... gulp ... is in LOVE?" They all scream, "EEK!" Then the ghost asks, "What's LOVE?" Bunny explains, "That's when two people feel all mushy mushy about each other." "Ewww!" cry the monsters. Bunny goes on: "But here's the crazy part! When they get really, really in love ... they ... they ... THEY KISS ON THE LIPS!" The crowd shouts, "EEEEWWW!" Then Fran goes outside and sits on a tree branch holding his pink heart. He sees a tall-haired girl who looks like the Bride of Frankenstein picking flowers, who climbs up and joins him on the branch. "And that's when he was reminded that love isn't about being mushy mushy or fluttering your eyes or kissing someone on the lips ... and it certainly isn't about cutting out paper hearts," says the unseen narrator. "It's about something you feel in your real heart, even if it does feel a little funny sometimes." 

Is it any good?

This not-spooky but monster-filled love story is a fun alternative to typical Valentine's Day fare. Valensteins gets to the true meaning of the holiday (it's about love, not just expressions of love) in a kid-friendly way that acknowledges that little ones find some lovey-dovey stuff kind of gross. The text and the wonderful cartoon-like illustrations in a spooky, mainly gray and black palette -- with the occasional green face or pink heart -- work perfectly together. It's a howling good time. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what Valentine's Day looks like in Valensteins. What does Fran do that you might do for the holiday at home or in school? 

  • What makes the story funny instead of scary, even though it's about monsters? Is it how they're drawn? Or is it how the story is told?  

  • What do you do to celebrate Valentine's Day? What's your favorite part of the holiday?

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