Every year on St. Valentine's Day I give my children a "little something" about the saint who inspired this holiday, along with a few little heart-shaped treats. It's my small way of trying to put the "saint" back into this very secularized holiday.
Unfortunately, there aren't many "Saint Valentine" gift items available. One year, I gave them a prayer card. Another year, a medal. A few years ago, I stumbled upon a couple of books about the saint, including the one pictured above. At the time, I hesitated to buy it. There weren't many reviews about it and I wondered if the story would really tell us more about the saint or if it would fall back into describing the secular holiday. I took a chance and purchased the book. Thought I would write a quick review about it for others who may wonder if they should purchase it for their home library.
The book above is called Saint Valentine. It is written by Ann Tompert and the illustrations are by Kestutis Kasparavicius. It was published by Boyds Mill Press in 2004.
In this book Tompert weaves information about the various legends and traditions surrounding Saint Valentine over the centuries. We learn that he was a Christian priest in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. We discover that he probably offered Mass secretly in homes or in the caves surrounding Rome because Christians were usually persecuted during that time for not believing in the various Roman gods. We learn that he was willing to secretly perform marriage ceremonies for young Roman soldiers who were forbidden by the emperor to marry (which may be the reason he is associated with marital love). We learn that the first printed valentine greeting may have originated when Valentine wrote a short note to a blind young girl. We find out that he was probably beheaded around February 14. We also learn why sugared almonds (which have traditionally been given as wedding favors) are associated with love.
I like the way each legend and tradition is presented in a story format, keeping the book from becoming a list of dry facts. I also love the book's illustrations. Artist Kestutis Kasparavicius uses beautiful muted colors in his detailed drawings. The effect is calming and serene and softens the harshness of this martyr's story. I especially love the color and shading on the page with the almond tree. My daughter and I will be using that page to inspire us when we learn to draw trees in our spring art study.
I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about the saint who inspired the holiday of love and affection.
If you would like to add it to your library, it can be purchased at a variety of online book stores including Better World Books, Christianbooks, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and many other places.
Do you have a favorite book you like to read on Saint Valentine's Day? Please share in the combox!
For those of you who would like to do a Montessori type presentation about St. Valentine, hop over to Sheila's Explore and Express blog. She describes a wonderful Godly Play presentation about Saint Valentine using a wooden peg figure. It reminds me of the one I do with my children for St. Nicholas Day. You can read about the presentation here.