Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Blue Valentine, revisited

Two days ago, I received the out-of-print copy of The Blue Valentine, by Gwen Schutlz, illustrated by Theresa Sherman, that I mentioned in my last post. The plot is a little bit different from what I remembered, so I will summarize it for those who are searching for the book and want to make sure that the out-of-print copy they order is the right one. The book was published in 1965 by William Morrow and Company. I would really like to see it republished with new illustrations. Aside from a few minor details (the mention of a hatbox, all the first graders going home for lunch before returning to school for the afternoon), the story could easily take place today:

Cindy is a first grader who has recently moved to a new school. She is shy, doesn't know anyone, and her attempts to be friendly to other children are rebuffed. When she finds out that blue is the favorite color of her teacher, Miss Kelly, Cindy decides to make her a blue valentine for the Valentine's Day party. Blue is Cindy's favorite color, too. She spends a lot of time and care in the creation of the valentine, and makes an envelope to go with it. The morning that Cindy, is to bring the special valentine to school, she falls into a puddle, and the envelope gets wet. Cindy arrives at school, and is the first one to put her valentine in the box.

The following week is the party. Cindy only gets four valentines (instead of each child having to give one to every other child in the class), but her minor disappointment is nothing in comparison to the anticipation of Miss Kelly opening her valentine. However, Miss Kelly hangs up all the other children's valentines, but not hers, remarking that red and white are such cheery colors. Cindy is convinced that Miss Kelly hated the valentine because it wasn't a traditional color, and slips away from the party.

The next day, Miss Kelly tells the class that she checked the box one more time and found an envelope that had gotten stuck at the bottom. She shows the class the blue valentine, and someone sneers, "How can a valentine be blue?"

Miss Kelly replies, "A valentine can be any color we want to make it....This one is blue because blue is my favorite color, and someone was nice enough to remember. I think because her favorite color is blue, too." She tells the class that Cindy made the valentine, and that, "Most of us don't know Cindy very well yet.... We don't know what lovely things she can do. This is one of them."

At Miss Kelly's request, Cindy shows the class how to make the intricate valentines. The blue valentine gets put on display in the class case outside the classroom. The final scene has Barbara, a girl who snubbed Cindy earlier, walking home with her. The last part of the book has nine pages of diagrams on how to make both the valentine and the envelope.

I read this book to my daughter on Thursday. Immediately, she ran for her art supplies, and said she had to make valentines like the one in the book. She ended up making her own versions inspired by The Blue Valentine.


Lone Star Ma said...

So sweet.

tanita davis said...

It's interesting to me as a writer to see how much plotting has changed since 1965 -- now my editor would have scolded because the impetus for resolution was on the teacher, not the child. If this were written today, the teacher might have been very different. I do hope that they redo it for illustrations -- if the blue valentines are a neat art project, but because of the way people edit and write stories now, it would probably undergo some editing...

El JoPe Magnifico said...

Better than a blue rose.

Saints and Spinners said...

Tanita: That is a really good point. I remember how powerless I felt as a child, and how helpful it was to read books in which the children provided the solutions. However, I also grumbled about how relatively easy it was for them to be so clever and resourceful.