"Love, Mama"

Win toddlers’ hearts with “Love, Mama,” by Jeanette Bradley, a charmer for Valentine’s Day, or anytime of year. It’s the newest book chosen for Baby Buzz, The Missourian’s ongoing program highlighting quality, hardcover books for children birth to age 5.

A review of each month’s Baby Buzz book appears in the second weekend issue of The Missourian.

Being away from Mom can be a hard row to hoe for a little one. So it goes for Kipling, a roly-poly penguin whose mom leaves on a trip. Suitcase beside her, she waves goodbye from an ice floe, a ship in the background set to take her away.

Kipling tries to deal with mommy’s absence, looking for her high and low, and using substitutes to quell his despair — “Pillow Mama,” a pillow he tops with her glasses, and “Picture Mama,” a photograph of her that “wouldn’t laugh.” Even “Snow Mama” won’t suffice, a snow person he builds that’s “too cold to cuddle.”

Wishing and hoping doesn’t help and when the doorbell rings, Kipling’s disappointment grows as he eyes a “sad, soggy box,” outside his door. What’s inside perks up the penguin — all of his favorite things and a big paper heart with a note from Mama.

The verse she’s written and the accompanying illustrations sweetly highlight the box’s journey from sender to receiver, over the ocean, across the sky and earth, a bevy of animals contributing to its delivery. A gift befits a gift, and Kipling gets to work making his own box and heart for Mama, the return journey taking an identical route.

Emotion bursts forth from the page showing the two reuniting, Mama finally home and Kipling dashing down a snowy path to embrace her — the box he’s sent sitting alongside her suitcase. The two have plenty of catching up to do, and hugs to share in this sweet book that just might ease separation anxiety.