Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Books about love for Valentine's Day

I don't really do Valentine's day, but thought it might be appropriate to blog about some of my favourite/least favourite books about love today.

There are loads of picture books for children about love. Which is nice, really, although to me curling up with your child for a story is an expression of love in itself. It sends a very powerful message to them that finding time to sit with them is important to you. Also, to my mind, you should cherish the time in their lives when they actively love the sound of your voice, because there will be times where it is the last thing they want you to hear (viz A this morning telling me "I'd rather be at school than here with you!") Ouch. I had committed the terrible crime of suggesting we go out for a walk, so it was obviously deserved.

Anyway, first I will mention the classic Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney. We have a copy of this which I bought for MrM when he was doing his finals, and I was very soppy. There is a message which I wrote on the cover sleeve, which is deeply embarrassing in its sentimentality. Naturally, this is the bit A and C like best. I think this is a lovely story for babies and young toddlers. I especially like the version that comes with your own cuddly little nutbrown hair. There is not really much of a plot - a small and a large hare have a competition as to which one loves the other the most. There are some brilliant pictures though. I especially like the one of the big hare whirling the little one round by his arms, ears flying in the wind :)

Secondly, I go on to one of the dumbest purchases I ever made. It was read out as one of the stories on Tikabilla once, and it very nearly made Sarah-Jane cry. This should have been a warning to me. It is a lovely story, but it is one of the saddest books I have ever read - including The Time Traveller's Wife, which made me cry for about a week. It's called Love You Forever and is written by Robert Munsch. It tells the tale of a Mum who is seen at the start, holding her newborn baby song and singing a song which goes "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always. As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be". She continues to sing this song to him throughout his life, when he is asleep as he gets older, despite all of the mischief he gets up to. At the end, the mother is dying, and the son holds her as she dies, and sings the song to her (replacing baby with mother obv). He then goes home and takes his baby from its cot, and sings the song one last time. I am usually in several floods of tears by the the time the Mum is middle-aged, because I know what is coming next. It's a powerful tale of love lasting a lifetime, and overcoming minor tribulations, but it is very, very sad, so beware if you or your child are of a sensitive disposition.

In a similar vane, but much, much less sad is I Love you Little Monkey by Alan Durant. Little monkey gets up to all sorts of irritating acts which make his Mum grumpy, such as ruining the bed she has just made. However, despite her annoyance the book ends with a positive message about love overcoming these daily tribulations. We love the picture where the monkeys' tales make a heart shape.

Also on Tikabilla was the lovely Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cooke. It's a jolly tale about Sunday lunch at Granny's house. We more often than not have Sunday lunch at Granny's house, so this was a big favourite with the kids when they were a bit younger, as they identified with the child in the book, waiting impatiently for lunch to be ready. They also identified with Granny's lap being one of their favourite places to be.

Finally a dishonourable mention to the Little Bear stories by Martin Wadell. Wadell has written some truly brilliant picture books, most notably Owl Babies and the Rosie's Babies. However, he has also "blessed" the world with the stories of the deeply irritating Little Bear and his ineffectual parent Big Bear. Little Bear is the kind of kid who beats up other kids at the soft play. I just know it. And Big Bear is the parent who says things like "Oh, it's because he's bored at school and has to release his pent up rage". You'd better believe Big Bear has a stackload of back issues of Aquila in that cave. The Little Bear stories are all about love. And yet the only emotion they make me feel is anger. And they are also REALLY boring. And long. So, in summary, if you want to be bored and angry for a very long time, read them. Read the lot! One after the other. Perhaps I should start doing that in detention. "Right young meladdio. Punishment for swearing in my hearing is the whole of Can't You Sleep, Little Bear delivered in a dull monotone for the whole of break. And if you do it again it'll be Well Done, Little Bear. And let that be a lesson to you."

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