Wholehearted Romance: Living Book Library Picks

lllibrary-300x246Many of you may remember our interview last fall with Liz and Emily, proprietors of the Living Books Library website.  They were kind enough to do a Christmas list for us a few months ago, and it was so popular that we thought we’d tap them for some classic Valentine’s Day recommendations for the young ones.  Hope you guys enjoy their ideas!


The depths of winter seem a most appropriate time to warm ourselves with romantic books to read.  Certainly I am not referring to the silly, sentimental, formulaic drivel turned out by the truck load for mindless feminine consumption. Those books, if not tawdry, are usually unrealistic pictures of a false, selfish, and short-lived love – the world’s counterfeit version that mocks God’s design for true love.

My ideas of true love are found in the Bible, which is God’s long and articulate love story to and for us. It begins in the garden with Adam and Eve and ends with the Bridegroom receiving us, His Bride, at a wedding. In between are Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel; the poetry of Song of Songs; prophet’s agonizing pleas to God’s bride, Israel; and all the New Testament allusions to our relationship with Christ, our husband. I am on pretty firm ground in saying that God has made the heart of all of us to crave romance.  Even godless authors of non-religious books cannot ever keep romantic love out of their stories, warped and twisted as their versions may be.

Below is a list of stories for boys and girls from the days before our culture tossed out the mystery and beauty of romantic love.  All children need some seeds of love and romance planted in their lives, hinted at in their literature, sown in their imaginations to later burst into healthy adult love. Don’t make the mistake of dismissing fairy tales just because they are scorned by our rational age; they are the first ideas planted in the souls of little ones that there is a plan for a man and a woman, and God Himself promises the happiest of endings in the plot of His perfect love story.

For Everyone

  • The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang.  This collection of famous fairy tales, including romantic tales like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, will inspire your young readers with the virtue of good triumphing over evil.  514cC0o0WdL._SL500_AA300_(And keep in mind, here is a free Kindle version, The Blue Fairy Book, which can be read on your computer with free software.)
  • The Story of Valentine by Wilma Pitchford Hays.  Written for elementary students, this life of the Roman man Valentine, who later became the Christian Saint Valentine, is told through the eyes of a young boy. A good book to use to research the true origins of Valentine’s Day.  (While this book is out of print, some used copies are available…and check your library!)

For Girls

  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  The story of a young orphan girl in England who through many trials and twists of plot finds the love of her life.
  • The Complete Anne of Green Gables Boxed Set by L. M. Montgomery.  The quintessential “romantic” temperament is displayed by this beloved heroine throughout her exploits and adventures and ultimate love-interest.
  • These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This book describes the courtship and marriage of famous pioneer girl Laura Ingalls.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  little womenThis book should be read by every child for its warm family values. The reader follows the March girls as they grow up and ultimately get married.

  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.  Any of Jane Austen’s books could be models for courtship, either what to do or to avoid, but this particular title shows two very different sisters and their approaches to romance—excellent lessons to be learned.
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare.  An historical novel for upper-elementary/middle school readers which chronicles the story of a girl who grew up in the Caribbean and finds herself suspected of being a witch in the Puritan Massachusetts Colony. Her friendship with a young man blossoms into love.
  • A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter.  A girl bright and kind overcomes many hardships in this vintage novel that extolls sacrificial and virtuous love.

For Boys

  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.  Woven throughout this hero’s rough-and-tumble adventures is a girl, Becky Thatcher. Twain describes the typical boy’s ideas of gallantry and chivalry towards the feminine sex.
  • johnny tremainJohnny Tremain by Esther Forbes.  A subtle theme throughout this gripping novel of pre-Revolutionary Boston is the love of the young hero for a dear friend who helps him in his difficult times.
  • The Story of Roland by James Baldwin.  Another knightly tale of chivalry, this classic French legend is retold for young readers.
  • Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. Set during the time of Robin Hood, Richard the Lionhearted, and Bad Prince John, this historical novel for middle- through high-school readers centers around a love story between an estranged knight and his lady.
  • Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter.  A prequel to A Girl of the Limberlost, this story focuses on a young man full of bravery despite a disability. Freckles exemplifies true and honorable love for a girl.

For more virtuous romance tales for kids, see our interview with Susan Olasky on her historical series for girls, as well as Douglas Bond’s latest for boys, Hand of Vengeance.

Do you guys have any favorite books for kids that include a hint of romance?  Any questions for our intrepid librarians at Living Books Library?  Please see their website, www.livingbookslibrary.com, for more book ideas, and to see how you can be involved in their work to bring Living Books Libraries to a city near you!

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  1. Jessalyn on February 7, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Wow! Great list… I think I will read a few of these myself!

    • emily on February 8, 2013 at 8:11 am

      Thanks, Jess. There are actually several here that I haven’t read (cringe), so I need to do the same!

  2. Betsy on February 8, 2013 at 11:43 am

    Several more of Lang’s “colored” fairy books can be found in electronic versions through this link: https://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/book/subjectstart?GR

    You’ll have to scroll down a few titles, but you’ll soon see them!

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