Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday selection is from one of my favorite authors, Newbery Medal winner, Matt de La Peña. And what better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than a celebration of love in its many forms.
Written by: Matt de La Peña
Illustrated by: Loren Long
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018, fiction
For Ages: 4 and up
Themes/Topics: love, family, emotions, connection
In the beginning there is light
and two wide-eyed figures standing
near the foot of your bed,
and the sound of their voices is love.
Summary (from the publisher): “In this heartfelt celebration of love, Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that’s soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age.”
Why I LOVE This Book: The lyrical language carries us beautifully from one instance of “love” to the next. We find love in expected and unexpected places. The book doesn’t shy away from the fact that life can be challenging and painful at times. Love helps, but it can’t fix everything.
A “quiet old lady” tells the “you” of the story, “Stars shine long after they’ve flamed out…and the shine they shine with is love.” In the next spread we read, “But it’s not only stars that flame out, you discover. It’s summers, too. And friendships. And people.” The illustration depicts a child and dog cowering under a piano as the child’s parents argue. This spread has been the topic of some hot debate in the kidlit community. I like what Loren Long has said about this spread: “And what I’m illustrating here is a domestic dispute. And if you’re reading this book with a child from a wonderfully stable home, great. But that’s a way of sharing empathy with that experience. And if you are that child under the piano, you exist in this book.” (https://www.npr.org/2018/01/15/578172727/new-picture-book-illustrates-how-love-is-always-around)
The book also calls out instances of love that might be “overlooked,” like a “love that wakes at dawn and rides to work on the bus.” I love that a child might read this book and realize that something she sees a parent do every day, something she takes for granted, might in fact be a manifestation of love.
(For a collection of picture book reviews, along with resources, please visit Susanna Leonard Hill’s site: http://susannahill.com/for-teachers-and-parents/perfect-picture-books/.)