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I bought this for my 5 year old son last Christmas on the recommendation of another mum on a parenting forum. Despite being printed in America I found it readily available in the UK, so ordered it from Amazon. Before reading it I was aware of widely varied reviews, ranging from those raving about how it captured the mother-child bond perfectly, and those who found the relationship portrayed disturbing. Considering myself exceptionally close with my son, and usually very keen on emotive topics in all genres, I assumed I would fall into the former category. Not quite. This book has so much promise. Robert Munsch has clearly found a topic that resonates with a lot of mothers, and expresses it in an exceptionally heartfelt and genuine way. He begins with a mother rocking her newborn son to sleep and telling him (in a very touching and melodic verse repeated throughout the book) that she will always love him, and see him as her baby. The next few pages follow the baby through his childhood, describing all the usual mild trials and tribulations he puts his mother through, always resulting with the mother going into the child''s room at night, rocking him and singing the same verse, showing that no matter the day to day struggles, nothing changes how she feels about her son. So far, so great! Real insight into the bond between mother and child, and a lovely reassurance to read to your child at bedtime, that no matter what they''ve drawn on/spilled/destroyed during the day, they can still count on your unconditional love. For me, the stage this process becomes a little iffy is his teenage years, but that might be my personal views on privacy. After this point however, I would say even the most devoted parents might find the book mildly creepy, if not sinister. The whole tone changes when the son moves out, with the mother getting in her car under cover of darkness (beginning to sound like a horror film!) and crawling into his room to repeat her usual process. I found this one step too far. Even the terminology Munsch uses here makes me uncomfortable, when the mother "crawled" across the floor my son looked visibly terrified, associating the furtiveness with some impending doom! The next stage follows the mother''s declining health in old age, and shows the son literally reversing their roles, rocking his mother and singing the same verse to her. Afterwards he goes home and we see him starting the tradition anew with his own newborn daughter. This stage is just the right level of emotional melodramatic for my son, but I can easily see it being upsetting for more sensitive kids. All in all, I feel this book borders on the emotionally unhealthy, which is a real shame as the omission of two pages could have made it one of the greats!
I was given this book when my daughter was born by someone who I am sure meant very well indeed. It is after all a best-selling children's book by a much loved author, who also penned the fantastic 'Paperbag Princess' and a whole host of other children's books. Robert Munsch is a Canadian star author who has had an extremely troubled private life but has also been honoured by his country with a star on the Canadian Walk of Fame and membership of the Order of Canada. We own several of his children's books including the fabulous 'Paperbag Princess' which is one of my daughter's favourites.
This book however lurks on the shelf above my daughter's bed and is read only very rarely and never by myself. This is because I am unable to read it without bursting into tears and neither is my daughter, which is not a very calm way to conduct a bedtime routine. Written after the two still births suffered by the author and his wife in the late 70's this book is a tale of growing up, growing older and moving away, of a mother's love and of a child becoming an adult.
It starts with a mother rocking her new baby and gently singing to him, she sings of her love in a little ditty that goes like this 'I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living, my baby you'll be'. Every night she sings this song. The baby grows up into a toddler with the usual toddler mischief, but every night the mother sneaks into his room, rocks him and sings him the song. He becomes a young boy, a teen and a young man who moves out, but still the mother sneaks into his room at night to rock and sing to him. When he gets a house of his own she takes a ladder with her to get into his room to rock him. The last pages are the most heartbreaking however- the mother is old and sick, too old and sick to rock her son so he rocks her instead <blub>. When he gets home from the visit he stands at the top of the stairs for a minute (I've always assumed she has died at this point and am in bits by now) before going to rock his new baby daughter, singing her the song <wail snort>. It has got to the point that I cannot now even read the first line about rocking the new baby without starting to snuffle <sniff>.
The text is accompanied by lovely illustrations of the mother rocking her child, preceded by pictures of the child at various ages doing stressful things. The message throughout is that childhood goes so fast, yes it is stressful and tiring and disgusting and you have to handle body fluids and worry constantly but it doesn't last. Children grow, they leave, they become parents of their own children and you age and eventually leave them to get on with it. But the love that you feel for them doesn't pass, even when they are at their most frustrating and it continues in their own love for their children.
Its a lovely book to use to talk to children about various things such as love, growing up, moving out and death, reassuring them that you will still be there but that this is the way that life goes. My daughter was very reassured by this book when she was younger, she could see the path that life was going to take and how a child eventually turns into an adult. It also showed her how important and powerful the love of a parent is. However as she has got more sensitive as she has got older this book upsets her now and after the second time of finding her hysterically sobbing over this book ('the mummy dies, mummy!'), it has been confiscated and is waiting for my husband to read it to her little brother.
This book is certainly not one to be given to a hormonal very new mother, but a mother with an older child will be able to get a lot of pleasure out of this book, its certainly one that has made an impact on me. Hopefully they will be able to read it to their children without the floods of tears that accompany readings in this house! Its recommended reading age is 4-8 but my daughter got most use and comfort out of it at a younger age, she also was less aware of the fact I was getting teary reading it! I think she was two and half when I first read it to her. My husband thinks I am crazy for my reaction to this book and reads it quite happily, without even a sniff. It is nice that it features both a male and female parent and both a male and female child - so many children's books feature mummy in the main role, which isn't fair on all those involved fathers out there. Looking at the reviews on the internet it seems that this book is most often given to mothers and older parents rather than as a gift to children, which is understandable I suppose given its message, but I prefer it as a children's picture book.
I'm not usually a fan of sentimental children's books like this, we have 'lost' four copies of 'Guess how much I love you' for example as I hate it; this one is sentimental but also powerful so it gets four stars. It loses one as it made my daughter cry and NO ONE gets to do that!
The book is available for the RRP of £4.99 but Amazon have it for £3.43 at the moment.
Dear Mr. Munsch:
I was given this book at my daughter's first birthday. It was always the one she'd bring for me to read, even though she had a quite extensive library from which to choose!! I made up a tune as well & we'd sing it to each other upon my leaving for work or her going to bed at night!!
It's the book i purchase for my new mom's! A MUST HAVE for their libraries!
...However, sir, Wal- Mart & Books a Million both tell me it's NOT AVAILABLE. Please tell me you've not taken it out of print sir!! If it's STILL available, Please tell me which store i need to go to!!
My thanks in advance for your wonderful book & your help in finding MORE COPIES for my friends' new babies!!
May God Bless & keep you always sir. Also, are there anymore similar books I could purchase? Please advise.
I've a fellow dooyoo-er to thank for this book. It arrived with me (via some of her American relations) shortly after the birth of my son. We'd often talked about the book and she'd declared it a "must have" so, do I agree, or is there a cultural divide?
"Love You Forever" is all about the relationship between parents and children, and in particular, a mother's love. Describing that feeling that I think you can only really appreciate as a parent, it illustrates that deep-seated love and bond between parent and child and captures that feeling that you first experience on holding a new baby who, despite you never having seen before, you love more than anything you've ever met.
It sounds like it could be a heavy, psychological text, but is, in fact, a picture book aimed most probably at 3-5 year olds. Looking on Amazon you'll find that there are two editions available - the one I received, with illustrations by Sheila McGraw and shown above and another illustrated by Anthony Lewis.
The book opens with a mother singing to her newborn son: "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living, my baby you'll be". We follow mother and son as he grows up into a screaming two year old, a loud and typical nine year old, a troublesome teenager, and finally on to adulthood. Every night she creeps into his room, when she is sure he is asleep and sings her song again. Completing the circle of life the mother herself grows old and now it's role reversal time: the son must comfort his mother and, in turn, his own daughter, singing to each in the night.
I can so see the point of this book. It illustrates with a certain clarity that unconditional love which should (and more often than not) does exist between parent and child. It's a theme that's picked up in many a book and children's programme (in fact, the Tweenies dealt with this issue just the other day). It demonstrates that you'll always be a child to your parents and that they love you, just for that. I read it, however, with a certain unease.
There is, to me, something deeply awkward about seeing a mother drive across town, ladder atop her car, to creep into her grown up son's room at night, cradle him in her arms and then sing to him. It's a point that would probably be lost on any child you were to read it to (at least of the intended audience age) but as a parent I find parts just a little sick and twisted. Having talked to the friend who bought this for me I'm not convinced that this is just a cultural thing. Apparently there was controversy in the US when the book was first published for similar reasons.
Despite my own awkwardness when reading the book I still think that the message is an important one. You're not going to stop loving your child because of what they do or how old they are and it's an important thing for children to understand. As an adult I read the story in a literal sense and find it disturbing that a mother is cradling her adult son when nothing seems to be the issue (and in fact, it feels as though you have a rather crazed mother) but from a child's perspective this is unlikely to be questioned. Rather, the child will just take the unconditional love message away with them.
The illustrations work well and will aid the child to get the intended message. They are drawn in pastel hues with a certain realism that lifts them from the cartoon yet keeps them distant enough to reinforce the fact that this is a tale. They are as gentle as the song that mother sings. There's enough in each picture to capture a child's interest and get them involved.
I'm really not sure whether I like the book or not. I am however grateful that I have a copy and it certainly gives food for thought. I find it a deep challenge to read aloud to my son but for reasons of my own discomfort rather than the message that it is given. I wholeheartedly agree and can relate to the unconditional love theme it's just how it's presented that sits awkwardly with me. I'm not sure how I'd present the issue - it's probably not preferable to show a child misbehaving too badly and then being told that it doesn't matter.
This book would, I think, have a cross-age appeal although it is probably most suited to toddlers through to about 5 year olds. It's a book to read to a child rather than have them read it although, like me, you may have to get over your own discomfort to do so. Or maybe I'm just not open enough?
Are you a parent? Do you remember holding that newborn baby in your arms in those first few minutes, and knowing that you could never love another creature more than you love this tiny, helpless infant at this moment? Do you remember thinking "I'll love you forever?"
Thing is, that tiny, mewling baby grows up, into a bigger, messy, complaining, cheeky toddler, child and teenager. And yet...you go into the bedroom to give that sticky, sleeping face a kiss, and those feelings you had in those first few hours and days come rushing back, and you know you will love that child until the day you die - even if you can't always say so to that screaming monster.
"I'll Love You Forever" is all about those feelings - that intense frustration along with the deep, abiding love. It is a picture book, ostensibly aimed at (say) ages 3 - 5, but it still brings a tear to my eye.
It is a picture book (and please note, there are TWO editions available - the one I have, with illustrations by Sheila McGraw, shown above, and another, more recent one illustrated by Anthony Lewis - the story is the same in both, though the pictures are obviously different. For the avoidance of doubt, I am reviewing the Sheila McGraw edition), but with beautifully written text, crying out to be read aloud.
As her son is born, the mother sings "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living, my baby you'll be". As he grows up into a screaming two year old, a boisterous nine year old, a fractious loud teenager, and an independent adult, she creeps into his room, when she is sure he is asleep and sings "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living, my baby you'll be." Eventually, mum grows old, and now it's down to the son to comfort his mother...and full circle, he has a daughter of his own, and sings in the dark of the night, when he's sure she's asleep, "I'll love you forever..."
So far, so good. This is a lovely book with beautiful prose that poignantly explains to a child that no matter how angry mummy or daddy seem, they will always love him (or her). That even when mum thinks she's in a zoo, she'll love you forever, and even like you. That no matter how grown up mum is asking you to behave, you'll always be her baby.
The illustrations are both sweet and funny. They are semi-realistic, in that they are not cartoony. They are pastels in muted colours - they are lovely and sweet.
This book apparently (according to my dad, anyway, who bought it for my daughter...and for me) caused some controversy in the States when it came out. See, when the son becomes an adult and lives across town, mum puts a ladder on the roof of the car, drives across town in the middle of the night, to cradle her grown-man son and sing. Some folks objected to this, saying it was 'sick' or 'twisted' or 'perverted.' By searching on Google for "Love You Forever Munsch controversy" I found this statement (amongst others - most of which, I have to say, are supportive of the book):
"I find LOVE YOU FOREVER to be about an incredibly dysfunctional family, with a mother who infantilizes her child, invades his private space, never can say "I love you" when he is awake, and even when he is grown manages his life." (this is attributed to Jane Yolen - I wonder if it's the same Jane Yolen who is an author).
I think those people have it all wrong. It is for me an expression of love, and an affirmation that there is NOTHING a child can do to make its parents stop loving it. Nothing at all. Even if you behave if you belong in a zoo...Furthermore, the story is not meant to be taken literally. A mother doesn't REALLY climb in through her grown son's window - but yet he will always, in some way, be her baby. You can find statements both for and against here: http://www.fairrosa.info/disc/loveyouforever.html (entitled "Love You Forever: Funny or Repulsive").
Munch himself discussed the book and his motivation for writing it on his own website: http://www.robertmunsch.com/books.cfm?bookid=40 - you can also listen to Munch reading the story and singing the song. I've not listened to the song (I'm writing this at work). However, keep in mind, each parent will sing or chant the song in his or her own way - and that's how it should be. Munsch says "The way I sing it in the story is just MY version. You are supposed to make up your own" It is worth quoting Munsch here from his website to show the enduring charm and power of this testament to a mother's (or parent's) love:
'"One day the publisher called up and said "This is very strange. It is selling very well in retirement communities in Arizona. It is selling in retirement communities where kids are illegal. This is supposed to be a children's book. What is going on?"
"Grownups are buying it for grownups!" In fact, it turned out that parents buy it for grandparents and grandparents buy it for parents and kids buy it for everybody and everybody buys it for kids.'
'Technical' Details and Availability
The edition I have is 32 pages and can be picked up on Amazon marketplace from 75p. The version illustrated by Anthony Lewis is available from Amazon new at £4.79 and is also 32 pages.
Looking at Amazon.com, the Sheila McGraw version is the American version and the Anthony Lewis the British, as the McGraw illustrated edition is available for $4.95 from Amazon.com. As my father purchased this book for our family, and he lived in the States, that's the edition we have (and so the edition I've reviewed and discussed).
Matty's Opinion in a nutshell
It's probably obvious by now that I love this book. Even just writing this review, my eyes slightly well up. I know exactly where this mother is coming from - my daughter is nearly 15, and she is lippy, cheeky and sometimes (read: often) rude to me and to her father. And yet, I love her more than any other living creature (shhh - don't tell my husband). I passed on many of my daughter's picture books, yet have kept a few. This is one of them.
I highly recommend this book to parents, children, aunties, uncles, grandparents - really, to anyone who has been a child or has been with a child. It is moving, touching and beautifully written and illustrated.
This book is suitable for all ages, though tinies would need it read to them, and older children would prefer it read to them, I would think, given the subject matter. In fact, one of the joys of this books is that you are likely to be reading it to your children long after they can read for themselves. It is truly a shared and sharing story.
"I'll love you forever
I'll like you for always
As long as you're living,
My baby you'll be."