In the picture book Love You Forever, Robert Munsch captures every mother’s feelings of unconditional love. I can’t read it without my eyes tearing, and I love the tender expressions of love. But I wonder if children like it.
The toddler makes a mess and drives the mother crazy; but she loves him forever. The 9-year-old talks back to her and acts like an animal; but she loves him forever. And so on. Even when he’s a grown man, the mother still sneaks in late at night to rock him to sleep, singing, as always:
I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be.
Then, of course, she gets old and can no longer sing. The son, by now a father with his own baby, sings to his mother, reassuring her that as long as he’s living, his Mommy she’ll be. He then turns to repeat the scenario with his own little baby.
I really like this book and I cannot read it without crying: it is so tender to me to think how my son, now just one-year-old, will be getting old. No matter what he does, I love him and always will. And yet, I suspect that this is a book for the mother.
In one respect, Love You Forever does not align with my personal beliefs: I believe that mothers are mothers forever, even after death, because life continues beyond this one. Therefore, to me, the line should say not “as long as I’m living” but “forever.” For me, then, this story isn’t all that disturbing; it’s a mother expressing her love to her son.
But what is your experience with Love You Forever? Does any child want to read it, thinking about how their mother will someday get old? Is this image of death disturbing to children?
I’m thinking about this book as a part of my “Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History” project. I’m pondering the question: does death and dying belong in children’s literature?