Review: What is Love?

Author: Mac Barnett
Illustrator: Carson Ellis
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Ages 4-8

Regular Bookshelf readers understand that I have become a softy over the years and that, even though I’m somewhat jaded in real-life, a good picture book can get the waterworks flowing–especially when I’m blindsided by a suckerpunch ending. And, although I should have seen this one coming, I didn’t; and, this one hit me in all the feels.

The book starts out innocently enough:

When I was a boy,
in the garden out front
of the house where we lived,
I asked my grandmother,

“What is love?”

My grandma was old.
I thought she would know.

Grandma, in little-old-lady fashion, feigned lack of knowledge, telling our hero that if he “[went] out into the world, [he] might find an answer.” What follows is a standard quest, in traditional storybook fashion, wherein our boy seeks the answer to the age-old question What is Love?

Of course, as love resides in the heart as much as it resides in the brain, he gets a different answer from whomever he asks. Left without a definite answer he returns home.

Our hero is supported in his journey by illustrations done in the classic picturebook style (think back to what a picturebook used to look like) that bring back the nostalgia of childhood (at least my childhood. They are warm, calming and soothing–in a mostly earth tone palette that evokes the serenity of a patient, thoughtful quest. The narrative, simply and strongly written by Barnett is unhurried and reminiscent of the oral tradition. It is hard to write this easy. The words flow effortlessly on the page.

The end of the quest is designed to bring a tear to an adult eye (and it did to this one). Children (some with a little prompting) will be able to connect the dots to figure things out. This is a great gift for grandmothers and for grandmothers to give their grandkids. Don’t, however, be limited by that recommendation. As the book points out, Love is a lot of different things.

What is Love? (Amazon)*
What is Love? (Support an Independent Bookstore)*

My thanks to Chronicle Books for providing a Review Copy of this book. All opinions provided herein are my own.

More books for this Age Group can be found here and here.

Please, leave comments! I love a HEALTHY exchange of ideas. After all, critical thinking is essential to life.

*When something is purchased using one of our affiliate links, we may earn a small commission. We do not accept any monies for any editorial reviews. Our opinions, to the chagrin of many, are our own.

Leave a Reply