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“Roses are red, violets are blue, / sugar is sweet, and so are you. / This is the poem many share / to show how much they love and care. / Flowers and candy sent our way / ev’ry year on Valentine’s Day. / But why the cards that say, “Be mine”? / That’s all from dear Saint Valentine!”

So begins author and illustrator Ned Bustard’s children’s picture book about the life of a man whose name is celebrated each Feb. 14, yet whose story is largely unknown.

Bustard relates how Saint Valentine was born north of Rome during the time of the Roman Empire’s domination. Though the social climate in Rome was harsh, Valentine became known for his care and compassion for people and for preaching the gospel. Bustard writes, “Saint Valentine worked day and night— / he lived and loved with all his might. / He shared the honey of God’s Word / for the good of those who heard. / He served the holy wine and bread / and through his work God’s love was spread. / But mostly Val served God above / by living out a life of love.”

Saint Valentine was loved by many people whom he helped. However, he faced harsh opposition from the Roman emperor Claudius and his courtiers because he proclaimed, “It’s plain to me your gods are dead, / but Jesus lives and you will see / that he will have the victory!”

As Valentine was imprisoned and aware of his imminent execution, he wrote a loving note to a young girl whom God had healed through Valentine’s prayers. Valentine was martyred for his faith on Feb. 14. The tradition of writing love notes followed as a way to honor the loving saint.

In an author note, Bustard writes, “Saint Valentine spent his life loving others because he knew that he was loved by God. On Valentine’s Day and every day of the year, I hope the life of Valentine is a reminder to love one another—as friends, as families, and as followers of Jesus.” (IVP Kids)

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