Drew here - for this post I'm going to commit what will essentially be children's-book-sacrilege. I might have to resign from being a bookstore owner after this one, but please hear me out.
I've recently had a bit of a hate/love relationship with the classic children's book "Love You Forever" written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Sheila McGraw. It has led me to some interesting thoughts regarding emotional connections to books, especially children's books.
As we witness on a regular basis at our store, "Love You Forever" is considered a classic by the majority of the population and is a standard gift at baby showers. It is impossible for mothers, young or old, to pass the book on the shelf and not comment on how much they cry when reading it. I am probably going to offend parents, librarians, bibliophiles, and Canadians in general when I admit that I'm not a fan of "Love You Forever". Although I appreciate the sentiment and like the song, I dislike the book as a whole. Munsch's signature style of repetition doesn't seem appropriate here and the storyline comes across as simply creepy to me. If my mother snuck in the window of my house in the middle of the night, I would not be cool with it. The book just seems like an odd mash-up of a sentimental story and wacky Munsch adventure, which I don't think works (and what's with how the cat is drawn?). I never really understood why it elicits such a strong emotional reaction with seemingly everyone else in the world. Until recently...
Our daughter, Emma, is two and half years old now. Although we have quite a large bookshelf at home, she follows the same pattern as most other children and wants us to read the same few stories over and over again to her. Recently, she's taken a shine to "Love You Forever". Although Kate is usually the one who reads it to her, the other night she asked me to read it and I reluctantly agreed. Emma is very good at memorizing the books we read with her so we often will take turns "reading" each page. With "Love You Forever", she took over the "reading" of the song that occurs throughout the book. My heart melted. Her cute little voice saying those words made me tear up.
"I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living
My baby you'll be."
Here's a recording of Emma's performance
Nostalgia is huge when it comes to children's books. It's rare for a day to go by in our store without someone requesting a favourite (and usually long out of print) title from their childhood. It goes without saying that these treasured books are so well loved even in adulthood because of the strong emotions and memories that are associated. And that is what I think is the greatest appeal of "Love You Forever". Whether it was reading the book to your child, receiving a copy as a gift during pregnancy, or just understanding the sentiment of the book because of your own experiences, the book succeeds because it elicits strong emotional memories. On its own and without that personal context, I believe it's a simple, weird, and possibly creepy children's book.
Whether I'm right or wrong on this, all I can say is that "as long as I'm living" I personally am guaranteed to join the masses and have eyes full of tears every time I read this book.
What are your thoughts about this classic? Agree? Disagree?
Now go read a book with your kids...
As we've mentioned before, we believe strongly in reading to children as young as possible. Reading simple books to infants not only helps to develop their speech comprehension and visual acuity, but is also a great bonding experience.
We began reading to our daughter shortly after she was born. In a naive and failed attempt at establishing some sort of sequence of events that would result in sleeping at night, we came up with a bedtime routine that included a nightly bath and storytime before bed. While this certainly didn't result in anything near what could be considered sleeping through the night, it did give us a guaranteed part of the day that we all looked forward to. A variety of daily tasks have obviously changed as our daughter has grown, but after two and half years, we are still reading together every night without fail.
Our daughter is a creature of habit and is also very particular in how she wants things to happen (what two year old isn't!) and our family storytime is no different. For quite a long stretch, her pattern was to want Kate to read a story or two to her, then Drew could read a couple. then back to Kate. She has simplified this recently however as it is now Drew who kicks things off with two or three stories followed by Kate for the rest. Whatever the particular pattern is at the time, it is a part of the day that we all love and look forward to. Just the other night Drew messed up a bit of a tongue twister resulting in fits of laughter for all involved. No matter how hard the day has been, everyone's worries and cares are forgotten and we lose ourselves in the magical stories and simply enjoy each other's company.
Now, we would like to hear from you - what are some of your routines or traditions when it comes to reading together or buying/borrowing books?