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Uplifting Picture Books That Don't Preach
No Matter What
No Matter What
by Debi Gliori
"I'm grim and grumpy," said little Small,
"and I don't think you love me at all."
"Oh Small," said Large, "grumpy or not,
I'll always love you, no matter what."
"If I were a grumpy grizzly bear,
would you still love me?
Would you still care?
"Of course," said Large. "Bear or not,
I'd always love you, no matter what."
--No Matter What by Debi Gliori, p. 5-8.
We all need to know that we're loved and cherished, and to know that we're unconditionally loved. This is especially important for young children, who, at a certain age, can't hear it enough. No Matter What helps reassure the reader that they will be loved, no matter how they feel or act. This 2008 edition is a chubby board book, one where the pages will withstand a lot of use.
The little fox in this book starts out feeling grumpy when her/his parent is on the phone, ignoring her/him, and this sets the stage for the little fox to ask for reassurance and to find out that she/he will be loved, no matter what. Gliori's (The Snow Lambs, Pure Dead Magic) rhyming text is sweet and reassuring; the parent fox always has a loving, reassuring answer to give the child. The first two examples are easy to see why a child might feel they need reassurance that they'll still be loved--feeling awful and/or acting out when feeling grumpy or angry (grim and grumpy, and grumpy and grizzly bear). The next two examples were not as immediately clear to me, and didn't feel as strongly written. After some thought, I realized that "squishy bug" and the child worrying if they'll still get a hug might mean if the child was feeling unlovable--but I wish that connection were stronger. Still, a child needing reassurance that they will still be loved is a universal need.
One section stopped me short while reading, since it felt un-childlike, and in a different tone than the rest of the book, almost formal: "But does love wear out? Does it break or bend? Can you fix it or patch it? Does it mend?" I would have preferred the text to flow more easily. Still, all the answers are reassuring, and answer questions that many children may not even be able to express--such as knowing that the parent will still love the child, even if they are away from them.
The characters are named "Large" for the parent and "Small" for the child, and this generalization makes it easy for the reader to identity with the characters. It also makes the characters gender-neutral. The text starts off with two non-rhyming pages; I really like this leap from non-rhyming to rhyming, and the change in rhythm.
Gliori's reassuring, cozy illustrations really bring forth the comfort and love in the book. The two foxes are always a red-orange, bringing a sense of warmth, and the parent is shown taking care of the child in almost every spread--picking the child up, giving the child a bath, feeding the child, reading the child a bedtime story, hugging the child. These loving and reassuring acts are not mentioned in the text, but they add to and build on the story, adding more layers and actual story. I think this is clever, though it feels like much more of the story is told through illustration than text. The reassuring acts appear in either a side panel, or in the main illustration, sometimes with the child as another animal.
The illustrations alternate between full-spread, bleed-right-to-the-edges illustrations, to three-quarters of a spread with a white side panel where another scene takes place. Gliori uses patterns and textures throughout the illustrations, making the work aesthetically pleasing. The patterns never detract from the scene, but always add to it, sometimes quite subtly. Gliori also makes great use of light and shadow, using it to highlight characters and events, bring a sense of warmth, and lighten the page. Streaks and lines in the opening and closing illustrations make the foxes the visual focus of the scene and bring a sense of pleasing texture.
Characters are deftly illustrated, with sure lines that show emotion well. Gliori also adds in many small, fun details that both young and old readers will enjoy poring over. Observant readers may enjoy finding the chickens in many of the illustrations (such as on a drawing on the wall; Small's toy; Small's bib; a poster). Bunnies and ducks also frequently find their way into the illustrations.
This is a warm, reassuring book that will give readers the message that they will always be loved. The text could be a little stronger, but it works, and the illustrations are a visual delight; I would pick the book up just to look at them.
-Added March 03, 2008
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