XO, OX: A Love Story
By Adam Rex
Illustrated by Scott Campbell
Roaring Brook Press, 2017

This Valentine’s Day, it is my pleasure to introduce you to a 2017 book, XO, OX: A Love Story, which takes a humorous look at a one-sided romance. Told through correspondence between a large, clumsy ox and a graceful, haughty gazelle, this book reminds us that we all need to feel connected and valued, and that sometimes, a rejection is not what it appears to be.

As thxoxoe book opens, Ox sits on his bed writing a love letter to Gazelle. “Even when you are running from tigers you are like a ballerina who is running from tigers,” he opines. Gazelle, reclining on an opulently upholstered chaise while gazing at herself in a hand mirror, responds with a form letter and an autographed photo of herself.

Ox is unfazed and thanks Gazelle for replying personally to him. He takes a second form letter and photo as a sign of interest. The missives fly back and forth like a ping-pong ball until Gazelle reaches a breaking point. “I could never love an animal that is too large, and too stout, and who is…so thick and ungraceful and awful and unlovely,” she writes. “I could never, ever love an ox.”

Or could she?

You can probably guess the answer, but this lushly illustrated book does more than tell a charming story. Like all the books I recommend, it has a message. In this case, it points to our need to feel connected and valued. It is perfect for February, because it encourages us to look past superficial flaws and find the good in each other.

I also like this story because it suggests that we have the power to effect change. As parents and parent leaders, you can inspire everyone in your school community to work together on behalf of all students.

This Valentine’s Day, and throughout the month of February, let us remember that none of us is perfect, but surely, each of us deserves compliments. Please teach kindness and acceptance. Let your children, their teachers and other school staff members know that you appreciate their dedication and hard work. Make them your Valentine and I guarantee it will make their day!

Carmen Fariña

Former Chancellor of NYC Schools, lifelong educator, native Brooklynite, and proud abuela.

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