Drew & Kate: Tall Tales


Love You Forever – from creepy to classic

How personal experience can shape your love of a book

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...