cover image I LOVE YOU, TOO!


Eve Bunting, , illus. by Melissa Sweet. . Scholastic/Cartwheel, $8.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-439-45086-7

Little Brown Puppy makes a spontaneous present of a "big, beautiful bone" to his mother, kicking off a chain reaction of offspring-to-mother gifts among all his friends. The story culminates with a boy, who says to his mother, "Here's a kiss, and here's a hug,/ and here's my very special bug." The little ones always make their presentation in rhyme ("If all the lily pads are taken,/ please sleep on this until you waken," says Tiny Frog as he leaps through the air bearing a humongous leaf), and the mother dog's reply—"I love the bone, my Little Puppy. And I love you"— serves as a model for each grown-up's grateful response. Bunting and Sweet smartly scale their work to both the modest concept and the book's small paper-over-board format, and the results are beguiling. The economical text skips nimbly across the pages, while the delicate watercolors pack a surprising emotional intensity: when Mama Frog gleefully hoists her baby in the air, the little fellow spreads his arms wide and closes his eyes in sheer ecstasy. Ideal for year-round giving, this Valentine leaves no doubt that being loved is the greatest gift of all. Ages 3-5. (Jan.)