Valentine’s Day can be more than romance. It can be a celebration of all sorts of different love relationships–family, friendships, even pets. Here are some of our favorite unexpected love stories.

Unconventional Romance

The Rat Prince, by Bridget Hodder (Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 2016)

In this reimagining of the Cinderella story, Char, the Rat Prince, shows his devotion to Rose (Cinderella). But at it’s core, this is a Char-Rose love story.







Friendship Stories

Tumble and Blue by Cassie Beasley (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017)

The story centers on Tumble Wilson and Blue Montgomery, who meet early in the book. While the story is about them fighting their individual fates, it becomes a story of sacrifice for the friend they love.






The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (Algonquin Young Readers, 2016)


Though there is a lot of family love in this story–mother and daughter, adopted mother and daughter–the friendship story between the Swamp Monster and the Perfectly Tiny Dragon sings with love.





Lou Lou and Pea and the Mural Mystery, by Jill Diamond, illustrated by Lesley Vamos (Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, October 2016)


These two intrepid sleuths share a friendship beyond compare. (The next book in the series, Lou Lou and Pea and the Bicenntenial Bonanza, is out in April 2018!)







Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder (Walden Pond Press, 2017)


Arguably, this is a family story. The nine children on the island create a family of sorts. But it’s also the story of Jinny’s loss of her friendship with Deen when he leaves the island, and the growth of her friendship with Ben and the other children as she takes on her responsibilities as the Eldest.




Family Stories

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk (Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2017)


Beyond the Bright Sea is about the main character, Crow, discovering the secrets of her past and her mysterious appearance on the island as a baby. But it’s really about the relationship with her adoptive father Osh, and what it means to be a family.





The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy, by Jeanne Birdsall (Yearling Books, 2007)


Four sisters, one father, a lovable Hound. While this story is in some ways the tale of the “very interesting boy,” it is a celebration of the family unit.







Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko (Puffin, 2006)


Set on Alcatraz in the 1930s, the story of Moose’s love and care for his older autistic sister Natalie is the heart of the story.






One Shadow on the Wall by Leah Henderson (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017)


Set in Senegal, the story focuses on twelve-year-old Mor’s promise to his deceased father to keep the family together. Everything he does is to care for his two younger sisters, and they too do everything they can to keep the brother, two sisters, and pet goat together.





How to Avoid Extinction by Paul Acampora (Scholastic, 2016)


How to Avoid Extinction is all about love. Leo’s love for his grandmother, her love for his grandfather, Leo’s sister’s love for their dog, and the love Leo and his mom are trying to figure out.





Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012)


While Wonder is about Auggie learning to accept himself and to be a friend, the family relationships are at the center of this story. Auggie is loved.






A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle (Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2017, original publication 1962)


Madeline L’Engle’s classic focuses on Meg’s search for her lost and loved father. But when Meg is faced with the task of saving her brother from the overpowering, impersonal IT who has possessed him, she realizes that her secret superpower is–you guessed it–LOVE.




Who Doesn’t Love Animals?

Pax by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen (Balzer + Bray, 2016)


The story follows Peter and Pax, a fox Peter saved as a kit. When they are separated, Peter must search for his friend.






wishtree by Katherine Applegate (Feiwel and Friends, 2017)


Yes, there are wonderful human friendships in this story, and the main events are centered on the care of friendships and adoptive families, but the most heartfelt moments of the book are in the relationship between Red, the oak tree, and Bongo, his crow friend.



What unconventional love stories have you loved?