This exquisitely illustrated picturebook takes the reader on a journey to explore love in all of its imperfect and beautiful ways. The story takes on a lyrical quality as the reader moves through the sensory and emotional experience that is love. In the beginning, the story explores the sounds of love at home, in a cab, and on a summer day and moves on to explore love in moments of fear, such as a fire alarm in the middle of the night or adults shielding a child from frightening news on the television. Next, the story explores the love others give through care, time, and fun. In the end, the story focuses on the love we have for ourselves and the love we carry with us, so we are never truly alone.
In our current social and political climate, love is frequently overshadowed by the conflict in our society. This timely picturebook provides children with an exploration of the universal theme of love and reminds us that love is all around–if we take the time to look. The illustrator, Loren Long, includes colorful images that include culturally diverse characters. Most of the images are in urban environments, but the images also capture scenes of love in quiet places such as a trailer park and a suburban backyard.
One of the most compelling characteristics of this book is that the day-to-day examples of love feel so real. In one image, a burned piece of toast represents love of one sibling caring for another. For most of us, the love we experience day-to-day is not perfect. Instead, we do our best to care for those around us and to find beauty—to find love–in our many imperfect ways. This book honors those small, but powerful, moments when we are both human and loved.
This text could be paired with The Only Child by Guojing (2015) or Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea by Joyce Carol Thomas and Floyd Cooper (1995) to examine unconventional love and the importance of individuality through a lens of diverse cultures and experiences (Ebe, 2012; Fox & Short, 2003). The quality of craftsmanship in this book would also make it a powerful resource in the language arts classroom as a mentor text for sensory language, the influence of art on text, and theme. Additionally, this text could be used for social studies and lessons to explore diverse communities, families, and relationships.
Matt de la Peña is an award-winning biracial author from California. He is the author of several books for young adults, as well as picturebooks including the Newbery Award winner, Last Stop on Market Street (2015). His novel Mexican White Boy (2010), has been part of curriculum scrutiny even as it encourages young people to be proud of their heritage (Winerip, 2012). He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Katie Walker, Coastal Carolina University
de la Peña, M. (2018). Bio. Retrieved from http://mattdelapena.com/bio/
Ebe, A. E. (2012). Supporting the reading development of middle school English language learners through culturally relevant texts. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 28(2), 179-198.
Fox, D. L., & Short, K. G. (2003). Stories matter: The complexity of cultural authenticity in children’s literature. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Winerip, M. (2012, March 19). Racial lens used to cull curriculum in Arizona. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/19/education/racial-lens-used-to-cull-curriculum-in-arizona.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&