Having started February with a post about Library Lovers Day, I thought I’d end the month with a selection of picture books about love. I have decided to focus on the concept of love (what it is and what it feels like), rather than the reasons for love (I love my mummy because…). Interestingly, almost all the books I have chosen use animal characters to explain what love is. Sometimes big ideas or themes are presented in this way because it makes it less overwhelming for young children. They are still able to relate to the content, but can do so from a distance.
No Matter What
Written and illustrated by Debi Gliori
“I’ll always love you, no matter what…”
“No matter what?” Small asks. But what if he turns into a bug, or a crocodile, or even a grizzly bear? Small has all sorts of questions about love, and his mummy must reassure him that her love will never, ever run out.
This is a fabulous book about unconditional love. Small is in a bad mood and bangs and crashes and breaks things. When Large asks him what is the matter, he says, “I’m a grim and grumpy little Small and nobody loves me at all”. But Large reassures him that “Grumpy or not, I’ll always love you no matter what”. Small then asks if Large will love him if he is a bear or a bug or a crocodile. To which Large replies, “I’ll always love you no matter what”. The last few pages contain bigger questions about love: does it break and does it go on after you die. Large responds to the last question with wise words:
“Small, look at the stars-how they shine and glow,
but some of those stars died a long time ago.
Still they shine in the evening skies
love, like starlight, never dies.”
No Matter What is beautifully written and illustrated by Debi Gliori, who has created many brilliant children’s books. Her pictures are full of little details that enhance the reading experience for both children and adults. Large and Small also feature in the book, Stormy Weather.
Love Is You and Me
Written and illustrated by Monica Sheehan
This adorable book, by bestselling author Monica Sheehan, helps us to remember that LOVE-whether between a parent and child, best friends, or even a dog and a mouse-is the greatest gift of ALL.
This rhyming book shows us what love is. Each double-page spread covers an aspect of love; “Love is sweet. And love is grand!…It’s a smile in your heart. It keeps us together when we’re apart”. The accompanying images of a dog and a mouse clearly reinforce each phrase. There is lots of white space around the words and pictures, making it appealing to children. A very accessible and enjoyable book about a big concept!
Monica Sheehan has also written and illustrated another book featuring the two characters from Love Is You and Me. Entitled Be Happy!, it is “a little book for a happy you and a better world” (Simon & Schuster, 2018) and complements this book about love perfectly.
I Love You Too
Written and illustrated by Stephen Michael King
You love me and I love…you too.
I love Stephen Michael King’s work, both as a writer and an illustrator. In this simple book, four friends spend time together whether “the world is filled with sunny days…windy days [or] rainy days”. They roll down a hill, look at the stars, fly a kite and jump in puddles. Love is about being together and sharing experiences; “Whatever the weather, there’s something I know, you love me and I love…you too”.
Stephen Michael King has illustrated a number of children’s books by writers such as Margaret Wild and Glenda Millard. He is also the author and illustrator of the fantastic (and very moving) Mutt Dog, as well as the creator of two Snail and Turtle books.
Written and illustrated by Emma Dodd
Love is in the morning when you wake and smile at me.
Love is when we talk together, happy as can be.
One little rabbit finds love everywhere, but knows that a mummy’s love is always the best love of all.
Another beautiful book with simple illustrations and rhyming text. Some of the pictures are also highlighted with gold, making them even more appealing to young children. Like Love Is You and Me, a different aspect of love is introduced on each double-page spread; “Sometimes love is quiet and it needs no words at all. Love is there to catch you when you are about to fall”. This is a lovely book to share with a child.
Like Stephen Michael King, Emma Dodd has been both an illustrator for other writers and for her own work. She has created the Dot and Dash series about a dog and a cat and has also illustrated the Amazing Baby series of interactive books.
Love Is My Favourite Thing
Written and illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark
Plum has lots of favourite things-catching sticks, her bear and her bed, but really, LOVE is her absolute favourite thing.
She loves her family, and they love her. But trouble loves Plum too, and sometimes she just can’t help doing slightly naughty things.
I love Plum (also know as Plummie)! And I love this book by Emma Chichester Clark about her dog, who has her own blog called Plumdog Blog (hilarious and well worth checking out). This story is told from Plummie’s perspective (as is the blog). She begins by listing all the things she loves, but love is her favourite thing. However trouble likes Plummie and she ends up jumping in the duck pond, ripping a cushion and grabbing someone’s bag (well, it did have an ice-cream in it!). After being told off by her mummy, she is afraid that she will no longer be loved; “My whole world was black. I stared at the darkness. I knew they wouldn’t love me anymore”. But of course they do! Because, like No Matter What, this book is about unconditional love.
Emma Chichester Clark is the creator of the Blue Kangaroo and Melrose and Croc series. She has also illustrated a number of classic children’s stories, including Pinocchio, James and the Giant Peach and Greek Myths. And there are several more Plumdog books featuring the irresistible Plummie.
You Can Never Run Out Of Love
Written by Helen Docherty and illustrated by Ali Pye
You can run out of biscuits…
And you might run out of milk…
Or clean socks.
You can run out of money, and ideas, and energy.
But you can never, never, run out of love.
A joyful and tender story of the everyday, extraordinary love that inspires us to help friends and reach out to strangers.
Love that will never run out.
This is a wonderful book about an important aspect of love (and one that children often find tricky when it comes to friendships): the limitless nature of love. The words and pictures complement one another as they show the different things that we can run out of: biscuits, bread, energy, chocolates, socks, time, money and patience. Unlike all these finite things, “you can never (no never, not ever), you can never run out of love”. This is because “love doesn’t come in a bottle or jar” and “you don’t have to charge it”. And of course, paradoxically, “whenever you give some, you’ll always have more”. This book would make a great starting point for a discussion about love and friendships.
Helen Docherty has written a number of children’s books, most of which have been illustrated by her husband, Thomas. As an illustrator, Ali Pye has worked with authors including Rose Impey and Jill Lewis. Her book, Copy Cat, was published in 2016.
The Love In My Heart
Written by Tim Bugbird and illustrated by Nadine Wickenden
Join Big and Boo as they journey home and discover that anything is possible with a heart full of love.
I particularly like the illustrations in this book. Hearts have been incorporated into the pictures as leaves, raindrops and clouds. Children would enjoy finding them on each page, adding another element to the reading experience. This book is also interesting in that it is about the way we view things when we look at them with love. Thunder becomes a song and flowers smell wonderful. Boo, the little rabbit, finds that the journey home is better when it is made with someone you love. Tim Bugbird and Nadine Wickenden have also worked together on another children’s book: The Perfect Gift.
I hope you have enjoyed this collection of books about love. Maybe they have inspired you to move beyond the “I love my mummy, because” books into the more profound and meaningful books about the nature of love. These are perfect for building compassionate and caring young children (and adults!).
All images taken by the author. All quotes taken from the blurb and contents of the book.