The most wonderful thing about picture books has always been the lessons they teach. It is the way they open little hearts and minds to new feelings and thoughts, the way they reveal truths with a quiet ease. And lately, we have been in a real golden age of storytelling for our littlest readers. Now is a time when more authors and illustrators are realizing the power in their work, the ways they can help children to develop a deeper understanding and greater compassion through art. A beautiful example of this is the new picture book Love by Matt de la Peña and Loren Long.
We’ve had Matt de la Peña on our radar since the stunning Last Stop on Market Street. Both stories depict the many ways we can view the world around us, and how to do so with a kind and gentle heart. Love takes this message one step further, inviting readers to take a closer look at the very idea of love and how something we often take for granted can be found everywhere, all around, throughout each moment in the landscape of a life.
Love is sincere in its message from the first page. It is a heartfelt journey through small towns and big cities, lonely dreams and joyous celebrations. It discusses the idea that love is not just a feeling, but the people and places that become home. Loren Long’s illustrations craft each scene with such detail and care that it is easy to apprehend meaning in the slope of each stroke. The art at times even deepens the material, constructing a world that offers a detailed look at the many facets and properties of love.
And when tackling the tougher aspects of this emotion, Love doesn’t flinch. It is a book that illustrates all sides of the thing, even the parts that are darker and more difficult to name. But in many ways, this is the most vital aspect of the story. In depicting loss and sadness, Love creates the opportunity for children of all backgrounds to see themselves and their own histories on the page. It says, with earnest candor, ‘I see you. You are not alone.’ The importance of this, of allowing children to feel seen, of allowing children to feel, is limitless. Love does so with an authenticity and grace that is remarkable, gripping and, above all else, powerful.
In a recent interview with Time
Magazine, Matt de la Peña says, “That’s why I write books. Because the little story I’m working on alone in a room, day after day, might one day give some kid out there an opportunity to ‘feel.’” And Love does, again and again, but not just for children. It will call to readers young and old. It is that rare gem of a book that has the ability not just to entertain and engage its audience, but to remind them of the capacity of their hearts.