Saint Valentine the Kindhearted – Ned Bustard

Saint Valentine the Kindhearted: The History and Legends of God's Brave and Loving Servant by Ned Bustard
Also by this author: Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver, The O in Hope, Saint Patrick the Forgiver: The History and Legends of Ireland's Bishop
Published by IVP Kids on January 16, 2024
Genres: Children's, Children's Educational
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We celebrate Valentine’s Day with flowers, candy, and cards for the people we love. But have you ever wondered why we do this on February 14? Learn all about Saint Valentine, a man whose life of kindness and love inspires us each year to let others know how much they mean to us. Told as a charming poem, this beautifully illustrated book will be enjoyed by children as well as the adults who read with them. Also included is a note from the author to encourage further conversation about the content. Discover IVP Kids and share with children the things that matter to God!

Valentine’s Day! It’s all hearts and cupids and 30 tiny cards your kid gets at school and heart-shaped pizzas from chain stores and fancy dinners and even more…but what is it? Where did it come from? Like the other saints attached to holidays (see: Nicholas and Patrick), the original person behind the holiday has often been forgotten—and perhaps St. Val most of all.

Saint Valentine the Kindhearted continues Ned Bustard’s series of children’s books highlighting the saints whose holidays we celebrate without really including them at all. The first book in the series was Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver, celebrating the person who would become mythologized as Santa Claus. The second was Saint Patrick the Forgiver, celebrating the missionary to Ireland who became the impetus for why Chicago turns its river green every year. Using a catchy sing-songy rhyme and illustrations that harkens back to stained glass murals, Bustard takes readers back to the original story before they were lost amid partying and consumerism.

Bustard gives readers a short biography of St. Valentine, portraying him as a person who loved Jesus and others and stood up against the Roman empire. Valentine is seen acting in pastoral roles and even marrying soldiers to their loved ones in defiance of the Caesar. Of the three figures Bustard as written about thus far, Valentine has the most obscure and least-interesting-to-children story. Listen to now Bustard tries to glitz it up:

Roses are red, chocolates are best,

God said the marriages are bless’d.

But Rome’s bad leader Claudius

Believed it was quite obvious

That soldiers who found love were weak

—so hopes for weddings were quite bleak.

Yet, Christ bless’d wedding with fine wine,

So they were bless’d by Valentine.

Like, Bustard is trying. He really is. It’s a lot to explain. It’s even more to explain in simple terms that rhyme in an aabb format. It’s a little silly. The rhymes are a bit convoluted. But Bustard is doing the absolutely best possible with the source material. Saint Valentine the Kindhearted isn’t quite as good poetically as the previous books, but that’s not at all on Bustard. It’s just what has to be to fit the format. And the more I read it, the more it grows on me.

This book—this whole series—would be great for schools to utilize in the lead up to the holiday it represents. You have history: learn the story of St. Valentine. You have writing: Write a roses are red poem like the book. You have art: Draw something in the style of the book. You have literature: Listen to what an aabb rhyme scheme sounds like. This is a cute series and now, with Nicholas, Patrick, and Valentine done—are there any left? I don’t know what Bustard has coming up next, but I’m looking forward to it.