9-year-old Marcus integrates into a white school at the height of the civil rights movement. While Marcus’s father is in jail with Dr. Martin Luther King for his nonviolent protest activities, Marcus endures the jeers of classmates day after day. Finally, Marcus’s grandmother tells him the story of a Christian named Valentine who was also jailed and persecuted for his faith. Now Marcus must make a bold and difficult choice.
“I hate them.” The words were like a steel gate swinging open. Other words tumbled out before Marcus could stop them. Words about eating alone and Travis and kids who tripped him in the halls.
Mama held a cupboard door, her jaw set.
“I hate those school kids!” The words felt like fire. “And I hate Travis most of all!”
Granny turned Marcus’s face to hers. “No,” she said. “No need to be hating. Jesus says to love our enemies.”
Mama slammed the cupboard door. “He’s just a child!” she said.
Granny laid a hand on her arm. ‘So’s this other boy,” she said. “Just a child. They’re all children. God’s children.”
Mama took a breath and let it out. Marcus wondered if there were any angels for Mama.
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Katherine Grace Bond graciously tackles racism, prejudice, bullying, and voting rights in the story. Marcus, the main character, is a pillar of grace and understanding as he learns to cope as the only student of color in his class, during one of the tumultuous eras in U.S. history. His grandmother is a role model of peace and understanding as she supports Marcus in honoring who his is and keeping his values intact through love, understanding, and kindness…Reading this book with my children gives us all a natural discussion prompt for talking about topics related to race, prejudice, and acceptance. Many families often skip these discussions and refuse to believe “it” still exists. They may use the “if it doesn’t come up, it’s not a problem” approach or “we are not those kinds of people” tactic. The point I’m making and what Bond uses her book to explain is – we have a long way to go and we all are going to have to do the work.
Kanesha Baynard, blogger, It’s a Full Nest
Katherine Grace Bond tells the story with a sure hand and without a wasted word, bringing to life one of the most difficult aspects of Christian life – the love of enemies.
Jim Forest, In Communion
While I agree with all that has been said on the this page about this book, I have to add that it would be appropriate for all elementary and even junior high school students as it deals with the issues of race and racial reconciliation in a powerful way.
Miryam Shoresh, Amazon customer review
Engagingly written by Katherine Grace Bond and impressively illustrated by Don Tate, The Legend Of The Valentine: An Inspirational Story Of Love And Reconciliation is a thoughtful, Christian picturebook recommended for children ages 4-8. The story is about a young boy, Marcus, whose daddy is in jail and who gets teased by kids at school because his skin is dark, a different color from theirs. Marcus doesn’t see much use in celebrating Valentine’s Day, until his granny tells him the story of Saint Valentine – a man who was thrown in jail, yet who refused to recant his faith in Jesus Christ. The Legend Of The Valentine is at its core deeply powerful story about loving one’s enemies.
Midwest Book Review