With Valentine’s Day just a week away I thought it would be a good time for a post about books which explore different types of love. We all want our children to feel loved but sometimes it is hard to explain exactly what love is. Enter books, which show love in all its many forms. Family love, friendship, the idea of loving yourself and romantic love are all explored in picture books and can help children to understand the idea of love better. Plus, with International Book Giving Day 2017 falling on Valentine’s Day this year, there has never been a better time to find, give, read about and spread a little love…
‘Guess How Much I Love You’ by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram
Okay, I know that this is not the most innovative choice but it is a classic for a reason- amongst other things, it gave us the phrase ‘I love you to the moon and back’! The relationship between Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare is very sweet but it’s the way that way they try to quantify how much the love each other which I find really interesting. Sometimes big feelings like love are hard to describe and this book gives children the tools to be able try and do this. The first few times I read it, I wasn’t sure about the almost competitive element of Big Nutbrown Hare always loving a bit more, but when I tried to see it through a child’s eyes the message I got was that a parent’s love is enormous and never ending and that’s a message I’m happy for my child to hear many, many times. A sure fire winner (and also a great shout for a baby shower if you have one coming up).
‘More People to Love Me’ by Mo O’Hara and Ada Grey
This book explores the fact that all families come in different shapes and sizes. The main character is asked to draw her family tree but because she has so many people in her family- parents, step parents, half brothers and sisters and various assortments of grandparents she becomes upset because they don’t fit nicely into a family tree. With the help of her teacher, she is able to see that she is lucky to have so many people that love her and that she loves in return and eventually she draws herself a whole family forest! It’s a lovely way to look at families which is different to the picture book norm and celebrates family love and relationships in a funny and thoughtful way.
‘Max and Bird’ by Ed Vere
I’m a huge fan of Ed Vere’s books- they are so bold, colourful and exciting and this one is no exception. Max (the cat) agrees to teach Bird to fly and in return Bird says he will let Max eat him. As it turns out, flying is not an easy thing to master and they become great friends, leaving Max with the dilemma of whether to eat Bird or not. Happily, he chooses not to (although he takes quite a while to decide on this!) and his love for his friend overcomes the ‘rule of nature’ that Cats have to eat birds. This is heart-warming without being mushy and is also really funny at the same time but what I like best about it is that it gives a great example of how being friends with someone is sometimes more important than following the rules.
‘Oliver’ by Birgitta Sif
Oliver is a solitary boy. He enjoys playing by himself and having fun with his own imagination. He doesn’t seem to have any ‘people’ friends but that suits him just fine- he doesn’t even know he needs them. And then one day, a chance accident happens and leads him to meet someone who has been there all along and a beautiful friendship is born. I love the way Birgitta Sif uses the illustrations in the story to do most of the storytelling and the way her characters’ quirky natures are always embraced rather than made an issue of. This book is perfect for showing children that the right friend is out there for them- whether they are looking for one or not. A different take on friendship and one I love.
‘I’m Special, I’m Me!’ by Ann Meek and Sarah Massini
Milo is upset because everyday the children at school tell him he can’t be what he wants to be at playtime. Not strong enough to be a lion, not tall enough to be a pirate captain, not handsome enough to be a prince. However, Milo’s mum looks at him each day in the mirror and helps him to see all his positives and eventually Milo starts to see them himself. One day, when he is playing, instead of being given a role to play he comes up with his own and it’s so fantastic that everyone joins in with his game. This is a great book for teaching children the power of knowing their own strengths and believing in themselves and can lead to some really interesting conversations about how they see themselves. Just be ready to shower your child in compliments when it’s over- they will almost certainly want to know what you see in them when you’re finished.
‘Odd Dog Out’ by Rob Biddulph
Odd Dog is upset. Where she lives everyone fits a certain mould and she stands out so she decides to find somewhere she will fit in. She travels the world and eventually finds a place where everyone is just like her. But then she spots someone else who really stands out and when she sympathises with him she discovers that he likes being different and he encourages her to stand out from the crowd as well. After his epiphany, she jets off home only to discover that everyone in her hometown has been really missing her and when she looks a little closer lots of them are starting to behave a little bit differently too. This is such a clever book, encouraging children to embrace themselves and not feel tempted to blend in with others but in a really accessible way which even young children will understand. We love it and it is perfect for encouraging children to love and be proud of themselves.
ROMANTIC LOVE (with a twist)
‘Prince Cinders’ by Babette Cole
Of course, there are many fairy tales available which give children a rosy image of romantic love. However, if you are after something a bit different, this one is worth a read. Prince Cinders is a Cinderella story for modern times, featuring a bumbling Fairy Godmother, big hairy brothers, a Prince who wants to meet a girl but gets turned into gorilla, a missing pair of jeans and just enough of the original story to still be recognisable. I won’t explain too much more than that for fear of spoiling the fun but what I will say is that this is a fairy tale which is equally enjoyed by girls and boys and has an emphasis on humour rather than the lovey dovey stuff.
Well, that’s a bit of inspiration to get you going. What will you be reading in the run up to Valentine’s Day? And will you be giving a book for International Book Giving Day? I’d love to hear all about it. Happy reading!