Circle Time Circle Time Book Reviews
 
Hugs and Kisses - books about the incredible love between a parent and a child.

 
Guess How Much I Love You -- I Love You, Stinky Face -- I Love You the Purplest
I Love You as Much... -- Love You Forever -- Why Do You Love Me?
Mama, Do You Love Me? -- The Runaway Bunny -- How Do I Love You?
Bub, or, the Very Best Thing -- "More More More," Said the Baby
101 Ways to Tell Your Child I Love You
 
        One of the best ways to show your kids that you love them is to spend time with them. In our house, some of our best family time is spent reading books to our kids, usually sitting in our worn blue recliner with one or two kids snuggled onto Mom or Dad's lap. The books you'll find below are some of our very favorites on the subject of love. We hope you enjoy sharing these books with your kids as much as we enjoy sharing them with our kids.
 
Kathy Bennett
 

 
 
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram
original copyright 1994
recommended age level - Baby, Preschool (read aloud); 4-8
Circle Time rating
ISBN 076360013X hardcover -- Order this Book from Amazon.com
ISBN 0763603317 hardcover book with stuffed Nutbrown Hare toy
                                              -- Order Book and Doll from Amazon.com
 
        In this tender story about a father putting his child to bed, Sam McBratney effectively conveys the depth of the love I feel for my own children, but am often unable to put into words. Little Nutbrown Hare wants to tell his father, Big Nutbrown Hare, just how much he loves him, but no matter what measure Little Nutbrown Hare chooses, his father always loves him more. For example, Little Nutbrown Hare loves his father as high as he can hop, but Big Nutbrown Hare loves his son as high as he can hop, and he can hop much higher. Finally, the tired little rabbit tells his father he loves him right up to the moon. Big Nutbrown Hare kisses his son good night and whispers, "I love you right up to the moon-- and back."
        Anita Jeram's pen and ink and watercolor illustrations of father and son gracefully capture the love they feel for each other. She hasn't drawn the typical cute little bunnies found in many children's books; she's drawn creatures capable of expressing emotion. The expression on Little Nutbrown Hare's face as he's falling asleep is one I've seen on my own children. Her pictures also show an incredible range of movement, from stretching arms as high or as wide as possible to very gently kissing a sleeping child on the forehead.
        This is one of my favorite books. It's a standard part of any "new baby" gift I give, and everyone who has received it from me tells me that they cried when they read it. I still cry.
 
Top of Page   --   This Review Copyright © 1998 by Kathy Bennett (kbennett@fidnet.com)
 

 
 
I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt, illustrated by Cyd Moore
original copyright 1997
recommended age level - preschool (read aloud), 4-8
Circle Time rating
ISBN 0816743924 hardcover -- Order this Book from Amazon.com
 
        Just as Guess How Much I Love You is good for a tear or two, this book is guaranteed to bring out the giggles, at least as far as my kids are concerned. Its message, however, is very serious: parental love is unconditional. The story takes place as a mother is tucking her son into bed. "I love you, my wonderful child," she says. But her son asks, "[W]hat if I were a big, scary ape?. . .what if I were a super smelly skunk?. . .what if I were an alligator with big, sharp teeth that could bite your head off. . .?" Would she love him even then?
        Not only would she still love him, she assures him, but she would treasure the things that make him unique. If he were an ape, she'd comb his hair and make him a banana birthday cake. If he were a skunk, she would cuddle him and whisper, "I love you, Stinky Face." If he were a meat-eating dinosaur whose claws ripped the sheets every night, she'd feed him lots of meat and mend his sheets every day.
        Cyd Moore's illustrations are witty and wonderful! Each picture of the boy with his mother gives a clue to what he's going to become next. On one page he's playing on his bed with his covers draped around his shoulders; on the next page he's "a swamp creature with slimy, smelly seaweed hanging from [his] body." On one page he's letting fireflies loose from a jar; on the next page he's a Martian who eats bugs instead of peanut butter. No matter what type of creature he changes into, the boy still wears his orange, green and yellow striped pajamas. Because Ms. Moore uses the colors of the sky just as sunset is turning to dusk -- pink, purple, blue, green -- this book is a perfect bedtime tale.
        I brought this book to the usual Monday mother-daughter lunch I share with my kindergartner, to fill in time while we waited for our meal. After I read it with her, she got up and gave me a hug and whispered, "I love you." This spontaneous expression came after a weekend in which I'd borne more than a passing resemblance to the Joan Crawford of "Mommie Dearest." Maybe the unconditional love in I Love You, Stinky Face runs both ways.
 
Top of Page   --   This Review Copyright © 1998 by Kathy Bennett (kbennett@fidnet.com)
 

 
 
I Love You the Purplest by Barbara M. Joosse, illustrated by Mary Whyte
original copyright 1996
Circle Time rating
recommended age level - Preschool (read aloud), 4-8
ISBN - 0811807185 hardcover -- Order this Book from Amazon.com
       
        Wow! Sometimes you read a book and think, "This was written just for me." That's how I felt when I read this one. I have four children who were born within six years of each other, and at times the sibling rivalry can be quite intense. My kids ask, "Who do you love the best?" The standard answer of "I love you all exactly the same" isn't exactly true. I love them all immensely just because they are mine, but I also love each of them differently because each one is unique.
        Barbara M. Joosse conveys this in her story of a summer evening that a mother and her two sons spend at a lakeside cabin. From the opening lines about hunting for bait, she makes it obvious that these two boys have distinct personalities: "Max exploded from the cabin, twirling the shovel in front of him. Mama came next, and then Julian. Julian shut the cabin door tightly to keep it safe from burglars and bears."
        Whenever the boys ask their mother who is the best, she gives them an answer that allows them both to be special. Max catches the liveliest worms, and Julian catches the juiciest; Julian is the rower with the deepest strokes, and Max is the rower with the fastest. When each boy asks, "Mama, who do you love the best?" She answers by giving them each a color of love that matches his personality. Julian is the bluest. Max is the reddest. Each boy is thrilled with her answer.
        Mary Whyte's illustrations are a beautiful complement to the story. The pictures fill each two page spread with the soft colors of a summer evening. The mother and sons are strikingly real. I look at Max and Julian and see my own boys, one overflowing with exuberant energy, the other cooler and more reflective.
 
Top of Page   --   This Review Copyright © 1998 by Kathy Bennett (kbennett@fidnet.com)
 

 
 
I Love You as Much... written by Laura Krauss Melmed, illustrated by Henri Sorensen
original copyright date 1993
Circle Time rating
recommended age level - Baby, Preschool (read aloud), 4-8
ISBN - 068811718X hardcover -- Order this Book from Amazon.com
 
        This is the perfect book to share with very young children, who will be able to understand the sweet text. Even my just-turned one year-old, who can't quite yet comprehend all the words, enjoys listening to the gentle rhyme: "Said the mother horse to her child, 'I love you as much as a warm summer breeze.' Said the mother bear to her child, 'I love you as much as the forest has trees.'" The book continues with several mother animals expressing the depth of their love for their children. On the last page, a human mother coos to her infant, "I love you as much as a mother can love."
        Henri Sorensen's soft-colored illustrations of mothers and babies in their natural habitat have a lullaby-like quality. Together with the simple text, they evoke the coziness of a favorite blankie, making this book perfect for reading and snuggling at bedtime.
 
Top of Page   --   This Review Copyright © 1998 by Kathy Bennett (kbennett@fidnet.com)
 

 
 
Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Sheila McGraw
original copyright 1986
Circle Time rating
recommended reading level - Preschool (read aloud), 4-8
ISBN 1895565669 hardcover -- Order this Book from Amazon.com
ISBN 0920668372 paperback -- Order this Book from Amazon.com
 
        This is another one of those books I can't read without having to dab at my eyes. Any loving parent, or child of a loving parent, will recognize the overwhelming love the mother in this story feels for her son. When her son is a newborn, she rocks him and sings to him, "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, As long as I'm living my baby you'll be." When he's asleep, she rocks him and sings him that song through each stage of his childhood. When he's a grown man with his own home, she drives over to his house with a ladder, makes sure he is fast asleep, climbs through his bedroom window, then rocks him and sings to him (my husband thinks this is a little strange, but I'm convinced that there are plenty of mothers out there who would do the same if they thought they could get away with it).
        The tears come when the mother gets sick, and can't finish the song. Her son then holds her in his lap, rocks her, and sings to her. Then he goes home, picks up his newborn daughter, and sings.
        The illustrations are a beautiful complement to the story. Not only does the son grow up, but the mother slowly grows older. Her house keeps its old-fashioned look, even down to the rotary phone on her bedside; his house is more modern, with up-to-date kitchen appliances. The mother has a striped cat that appears in several illustrations of the boy growing up. In his house, there is a kitten, that grows into a cat, that turns into a rather large, well-fed cat by the end of the story.
        Not only am I sharing this book with my kids, but I'm giving my mom a copy for Mother's Day this year.
 
Top of Page   --   This Review Copyright © 1998 by Kathy Bennett (kbennett@fidnet.com)
 

 
 
Why Do You Love Me? written and illustrated by Martin Baynton
original copyright 1988
recommended age level - Preschool (read aloud), 4-8
Circle Time rating
ISBN - 0688091571 Library binding -- Order this Book from Amazon.com
 
        This book has a fresh angle on the "I love you no matter what" story. While taking a walk with his father and his dog, a boy asks questions about his father's love. Once he is sure that he is loved just as much when he is bad as when he is good, the boy asks, "Why do I try to be good then?"
        Rather than lecturing, the father turns the question back to his son, "You tell me."
        One of the reasons I like this book so much is that my daughter sometimes thinks the same way as the boy in the story. The first time I shared this book with my kids, I could see her nodding in silent agreement with him, "If his dad loves him no matter what, why bother being good?" She's still letting the boy's answer, "Because I love you too," soak in.
        Because the author is also the illustrator, the illustrations match the written story perfectly. They also tell the simpler story of the boy and his father taking the dog for a walk. Each illustration logically follows the one before it, so a child who cannot read could look at this book and know exactly what is happening.
 
Top of Page   --   This Review Copyright © 1998 by Kathy Bennett (kbennett@fidnet.com)
 

 
 
Mama, Do You Love Me? by Barbara M. Joosse, illustrated by Barbara Lavallee
original copyright 1991
recommended age level - Preschool (read aloud), 4-8
Circle Time rating
ISBN 087701759X hardcover -- Order this Book from Amazon.com
ISBN 0811805212 doll based on Barbara Lavallee's illustrations (does not include book)
                                              -- Order Doll from Amazon.com
 
        It's easy to mouth the words "I love you" to a child when the child is being perfectly well-behaved. It's quite another thing to let a child know he is loved when he's done something naughty. That unconditional love is the theme of this book. In the opening sentence, a little girl asks, "Mama, do you love me?" After the usual reply, the little girl asks, "How much?" and "How long?" She then poses the kind of questions that I remember asking my mother when I was small: what if I did something bad? what if I ran away? what if I did something really, really bad? After each question, the mother reassures her daughter that the love would still be there, even through anger, surprise, or fear.
        This book reminds me of the talks I have with my children after one or the other of us has lost their temper, especially when the little girl asks if her mother would still love her if she turned into "the meanest bear you ever saw. . ." Admitting she would be surprised and scared, the mother answers, "But still, inside the bear, you would be you, and I would love you." Those words capture exactly the way I feel, and exactly what I want my children to know about my love for them.
        One thing that makes this book unique is its portrayal of Alaskan Inuit life. The mother and daughter talk about mukluks, musk oxen, and polar bears. Unfamiliar words are explained in a glossary in the back of the book. In addition, Barbara Lavallee's watercolor illustrations of arctic life are stunning.
 
Top of Page   --   This Review Copyright © 1998 by Kathy Bennett (kbennett@fidnet.com)
 

 
 
The Runaway Bunny written by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd
original copyright 1942
recommended age level - Preschool (read aloud), 4-8
Circle Time rating
ISBN - 0061074292 board book -- Order this Book from Amazon.com
ISBN - 0064430189 paperback -- Order this Book from Amazon.com
ISBN - 0060207655 hardcover -- Order this Book from Amazon.com
       
        If there were a classic book to express a mother's love for her child, it would be this one. A little bunny announces to his mother that he plans to run away. "If you run away," his mother replies, "I will run after you. For you are my little bunny." The little bunny then tells his mother all the things he would do to escape her, and she counters with all the things she would do to get close to him again. He will turn into a fish and swim away from her; she will turn into a fisherman and catch him. He will become a rock on a high mountain; she will become a mountain climber and climb to where he is. Finally, he decides that if his mother is willing to go to those lengths to stay close to him, he might as well stay where is.
        What I like most about this book is that the mother doesn't try to change her little bunny into what she wants him to be. Instead, she changes herself. If he's going to be a bird, she's going to change into "a tree that you come home to." This book helps me remember that although my children may never be the children I thought I'd have (how did I get a daughter who hates pink ribbons and bows?), I can be the mother that they need, meeting them on their own terms.
        The illustrations aren't nearly as beautiful as some of the ones for other books on this list. However, fans of Good Night Moon will recognize the bunny and his great green room.
 
Top of Page   --   This Review Copyright © 1998 by Kathy Bennett (kbennett@fidnet.com)
 

 
 
How Do I Love You? written and illustrated by P.K. Hallinan
original copyright 1989
Circle Time rating
recommended age - Preschool (read aloud), 4-8
ISBN 1571021124 hardcover -- Order this Book from Amazon.com
ISBN 0824985052 paperback -- Order this Book from Amazon.com
 
        Most adults are familiar with the love poem that begins "How do I love you? Let me count the ways." P.K. Hallinan uses those well-known lines to begin this parent to child love poem: "How do I love you? / Let me count the ways / I love you on your very best. . . / and very worst of days." Through the poem's words and illustrations, there are examples of the best, worst, happiest, saddest, sweetest and silliest moments of a young boy's life. The examples ring so true that my kids and I can match each one with at least one member of our family. Even the culprit recognized, and giggled at, himself as the one who wears his pants "with the front part in the back."
        The illustrations remind me of the Sunday morning colored comics I used to read as a child. The boy is adorable, the colors are soft, and there is just the right amount of detail. The illustrations turn many of the poem's simple thoughts, such as "I love to hear you singing," into silly ones, because the singer is in the bathroom, dressed in a cowboy hat and boots, playing a tennis racket guitar, and resting one foot on the little potty.
        The first time I shared this story with my children was the day the kindergarten teacher had called me about my daughter's unacceptable classroom behavior. Talk about timing. I was glad we could read this book to help her understand that I love her no matter what, even if I'm not always thrilled with some of the things she does. I have a feeling we may be reading this book a lot.
 
Top of Page   --   This Review Copyright © 1998 by Kathy Bennett (kbennett@fidnet.com)
 

 
 
Bub, or, the Very Best Thing written and illustrated by Natalie Babbitt
original copyright 1994
Circle Time rating
recommend age - Preschool (read aloud), 4-8
ISBN 0062059122 paperback -- Order this Book from Amazon.com
ISBN 0062050443 hardcover -- Order this Book from Amazon.com
 
        Like all parents, the King and the Queen want the very best for their little prince. The problem is that they can't agree on what that is. While the King searches through his library for the answer, the Queen and the Prince take a stroll through the castle. The Queen asks everyone they meet what the very best thing for the Prince is, and gets a different answer from everyone she asks. The Night Nurse suggests "sleep"; the Day Nurse suggests "vegetables"; the Gardener suggests "sunshine." Finally, the Cook's Daughter asks the Prince himself what the very best thing is. "Bub," he tells her.
        The King and Queen are no closer to the answer than they were before. What does "bub" mean? They look forward to the day when the Prince will explain it to them himself. The Cook's Daughter knows, however, that "bub," or love, is the very best thing.
        I liked this book not so much because it was a way to show my love to my children, but because it was a gentle reminder to me. Love is the very best thing we can give to our kids, even better than all the toys, all the vegetables, and, yes, even all the books we could buy.
        Because of all the detail in Natalie Babbitt's illustrations, this book is visually interesting in a way few children's book are. Each time I read this book, I catch something else in the pictures I hadn't noticed before -- the architectural details of the castle, the feel of the King and Queen's period clothing, and the wholly pictoral story of the Jester, who is a golden retriever, and the Prince's little stuffed dragon. Throughout the book, the dog tries to get the dragon for his own. At the end, the Prince puts the dragon down, and the dog carries it off to cuddle with for a nap.
 
Top of Page   --   This Review Copyright © 1998 by Kathy Bennett (kbennett@fidnet.com)
 

 
 
"More More More," Said the Baby written and illustrated by Vera B. Williams
original copyright 1990
recommended age level - Baby, Preschool (read aloud); 4-8
Circle Time rating
ISBN 0688156347 paperback -- Order this Book from Amazon.com
ISBN 0688091733 hardcover -- Order this Book from Amazon.com
 
        This book is actually three stories in one. The first story is the story of Little Guy and his daddy, the second is the story of Little Pumpkin and her grandma, and the third is the story of Little Bird and her mama. In each story a toddler is "slipping away" from an adult (through play or sleep), and the adult "captures" the child for a hug.
        The stories are very sweet, but it is the colorful pictures that make this book wonderful! No wonder the American Library Association named this a Caldecott Honor Book in 1991. Each person illustrated looks like a real person, not some idealized version of what a cute baby or loving adult should look like. In addition, the people portrayed come from a range of racial backgrounds.
        Vera B. Williams makes the text a part of her gouache paintings, and the result is a vibrantly colored picture with rainbow-colored words. Each page comes alive with movement, whether it's Little Guy's daddy scooping him up or Little Bird's mama catching her just as she slips off the couch. In fact, the pictures illustrate the story so well that my kids are able to look through the book and "read" the simple, repetitive stories to themselves.
 
Top of Page   --   This Review Copyright © 1998 by Kathy Bennett (kbennett@fidnet.com)
 

 
  Parents' Bookshelf
 
101 Ways to Tell Your Child I Love You by Vicki Lansky
original copyright 1988
Circle Time rating
ISBN 0809245272 hardcover -- Order this Book from Amazon.com
 
        I love Vicki Lansky's books, because she focuses on concrete ideas rather than on vague theories. Each page of this book has an idea that you can act on easily -- there's no special preparation, usually, and little expense involved. The most recent idea I've used in my family involves using candles to illustrate how a parent can love more than one child without shortchanging any of them. You take one candle, light it, and then use it to light as many candles as you have children. Each flame glows brightly, and none is diminished by the addition of other candles -- in fact, the light increases. My six year old, who was feeling very grumpy about sharing Mom and Dad with "the babies," really liked this idea when we tried it at dinner the other night.
 
Top of Page   --   This Review Copyright © 1998 by Kathy Bennett (kbennett@fidnet.com)
 

 
 
links to authors and illustrators discussed on this page
Barbara Lavallee - www.artiqueltd.com/lvlee.htm
Natalie Babbitt - www.ipl.org/youth/AskAuthor/babbitt.html
 
Top of Page   --   Circle Time e-zine Copyright © 1998 by Kathy Bennett

 
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