While all certainly know the name St. Valentine and what his namesake day has come to represent, there is precious little actually known about the life of this saint. Much of our information is pure legend. Author Tompert takes the most lasting stories and uses them as a springboard for this picture book recommended for young readers, age 6 and up.
We do know that St. Valentine lived in Rome during the 3rd century and the reign of Claudius II.. It is a fact that he was a Christian priest; all other knowledge of him is lost.
However, one of the most enduring stories about him is that he performed secret weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. He believed that dictate to be unjust. Author Tompert carries this legend further by imagining that Claudius was furious upon hearing this, and had Valentine thrown into jail.
Perhaps this legend is the basis for our contemporary celebration of St. Valentine's Day.
The soft watercolor illustrations depicting ancient Rome are dramatic. Full page paintings reflect the dress and surroundings of that day.
This book lists itself at grade 2-5, but I'd say maybe a little older. To be honest, I learned a lot from this book -- and really liked how it presented history to children as something that sometimes requires speculation and a sense of point of view, because sources can be limited. It is very honest about what is fact (very little, really) and what is possible or has become accepted myth or legend.
I honestly didn't notice the illustrations in this one too much, because I was too engrossed in reading the text. I think in addition to the history itself, it provides some great discussion on the study of history itself. It is not shy about discussing religion, so classroom teachers may want to consider if it is appropriate for their students with a careful read first. It does have some advanced concepts in terms of persecution, oppressive government, etc. that make it a bit weighty for younger children. On the other hand, for older children, it can turn a sometimes frivolous holiday of Valentine's Day into a useful social studies tool to look at how this sort of historical situation relates to today's current events in the world.
Great book to dig deeper than Valentine's Day cards and candy hearts.
This is a wonderful book with 4 - 10 lines of reading in 2 pages of earth tone pictures. I just want to add to what has already been said on this page about this book. While it looks like it is clearly written for 6 year olds and above, there are some things which would make it better written for older children and adults. The concept of the need for good people to be in hiding from an evil government may be too hard for children to handle well. Also, there is repeatedly brought up that these are legends and may not be true. That may also be too difficult for a child's mind to understand well. Otherwise the story is beautiful.
Although written for children, it is an eye opener for adults as well. Do not merely buy and gift this - read it. It could expand your knowledge of Saint Valentine with a forehead slapping, "I didn't know that!" moment.