What do you get when an award-winning author and an award-winning author/illustrator collaborate on a book about love? You get “Love” by Newbery Medal-winning Matt de la Peña and New York Times bestselling illustrator Loren Long.
This carefully thought-out picture book is filled with diversity and loving parents and grandparents, and it begins with a child in a crib and two parents in whose voices one reads and feels and hears the sound of love. Another page is about a spring day in the city where everything smells new and feels like life itself while a cabdriver “plays love” on his radio. The illustration is of a bright yellow cab with a hot dog stand in the foreground. A child in a wheelchair is offering a hot dog to what appears to be a homeless veteran (he has a crutch and one leg) while the boy’s mom waits with a dog on a leash.
Each page and each illustration unfold more metaphors about love, from stars shining with love to “a slice of burned toast that tastes like love.” The various illustrations include an African-American teenager offering orange juice and toast to his younger brother as they watch from their apartment window while their father trudges to catch the bus to work in the snow.
Not all the scenes are happy ones. A child cowers under a grand piano with his dog while his mom holds her face in her hands and a disheveled dad walks away from an overturned chair. Another scene shows family around a brightly lit TV, blocking the child from seeing what is happening.
But when you have a nightmare, love is there to comfort you when you awaken trembling. Love is there when your grandfather takes you fishing. And “love (is) in the rustling leaves of gnarled trees lined behind the flower fields” as a young girl in a hijab reclines in a flower-strewn field.
The combination of poetry and touching illustrations makes this book a perfect gift for a newborn or any family with children. Because the last illustration is of a child going off to see the world, surrounded by love, this would also be a fabulous graduation present. It’s certainly a book whose poetry will be appreciated by adults while the emotion will be felt by children. Parents will enjoy seeing their emotions so beautifully captured in the words and pictures of these supremely talented artists.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, for review purposes.