February Children's Books: A Tale for Every Holiday

Filed under: Books for Kids


For such a short month, February is certainly packed with holidays. And we've got great new picture books to commemorate each of them.


Groundhog Day
"Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox" by Susan Blackaby, illustrated by Carmen Segovia (Sterling, $15)
Aside from the classic Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day has been pretty much disregarded by pop culture. But this lovely new animal fable -- with its 1940s-feel illustrations and Aesopian clever-critter tone -- has a great deal of fun with the minor holiday. As the groundhog plods through the snow, looking for signs of spring (aren't we all this year?), she manages to repeatedly outsmart a hungry fox. The book feels classic and fresh all at once.


Chinese New Year
"The Runaway Wok" by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by Sabastiá Serra (Dutton, $17)
Speaking of classic, this lively story has all the ingredients necessary for a good old-fashioned folk tale. You've got a well-meaning young boy, who, Jack-and-the-Beanstalk-style, appears to do the wrong thing when he spends his poor family's money on a supposedly magic wok, instead of the food he was supposed to buy for their New Year's feast. You've also got a mean, oppressive rich family that runs the town, who get their comeuppance when the magic wok turns out to be the real thing. You get a little bit of darkness, a little bit of humor and a whole lot of appealing illustrations of delicious-looking food. This is one of those tales that you can imagine yourself retelling from memory when your kids need a bedtime story and there are no books handy.


Valentine's Day
"A String of Hearts" by Laura Malone Elliott, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger (Katherine Tegen Books, $17)
There are so many animals-as-schoolkids books out there that it's easy to discount any new ones that come along. But this witty, touching, and eminently relatable tale definitely deserves notice. Who among us, young or old, doesn't completely understand the muddy swirl of anxiety and excitement associated with a grade-school teacher's command to make Valentine's cards for every kid in your class. The adorable angst that the protagonist bear, Sam, works through falls into the "it's funny because it's true" category. Example: "What nice thing could he write about Nicole? Nicole had said his really cool light-up tennis shoes were dumb looking."


Presidents' Day
"Just in Time, Abraham Lincoln" by Patricia Polacco (Putnam, $18)
While not technically about Presidents' Day, this ambitious and utterly unique picture book offers up a very fresh and exciting new look at one of the Commanders-in-Chief honored on that day. First of all, by looking at the cover, you might not guess that this book is a sci-fi, time travel adventure. Two brothers visit the Harper's Ferry Civil War Museum, and find themselves transported to 1862, where they meet Lincoln himself on the battlefield at Gettysburg. The boys (and the book's readers) learn some important lessons about the realities of war and the emotional toll that it can take -– even on someone as historically strong and stoic as Honest Abe. Be forewarned, though, the prolific Ms. Polacco's depictions of battlefield violence, while not over-the-top with gore, are appropriately disturbing. There is blood. And when the boys are about to get caught in a firefight and they fear they'll never get back to the 21st century, the book gets genuinely thrilling.

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