One of the cardinal rules of narrative picture book writing goes like this: Let the main character solve his problem himself.
Reading is waaay more fun for children this way.
But in the world of Christian picture books, what do parents (and therefore publishers) want?
To teach children something we consider important. And often in a narrative Christian picture book, an adult character not only solves the problem but imparts the lesson as well.
So when a Christian picture book allows its main character to solve a problem (and learn that important something) without an adult character driving the lesson home, I want to cheer for that book.
And today I’m cheering for Love Is Kind.
Love Is Kind
written by Laura Sassi, illustrated by Lison Chaperon
published by Zonderkidz (2018)
hardcover, 32 pages, 9.2 x 0.3 x 11.1 inches
In this sweet tale, Little Owl wants to buy his grandmother a heart-shaped box of chocolates for her birthday, and he’s got a plan.
Little Owl’s plans quickly go awry, however.
He drops his money, it rolls away, and young Beaver finds it. Little Owl wants his money back, but Beaver believes it’s from the Tooth Fairy. Little Owl doesn’t want to spoil his friend’s happiness, so he resigns himself to waiting patiently until he has more money to be able to buy Grammy a gift.
Then Little Owl spots a dollar bill on the ground. Now he can buy Grammy her chocolates! But he sees a sign about a lost dollar. The money isn’t his after all, and he kindly returns the money to the true owner.
Little Owl experiences more several more mishaps before he finds his way, empty handed and dejected, to Grammy’s house.
But can you see where this is going?
“Love is patient. Love is kind. … Love rejoices in the truth.”
These words and more from 1 Corinthians 13 appear in illustrations throughout the book, perfectly integrated into the scenes as they occur. This allows children to begin associating Little Owl’s choices with these important words from the Bible.Now, there is an adult character in the story. When Little Owl reaches Grammy’s house, Grammy listens to Little Owl describe all that happened, and she tells him, “You spread love everywhere you went today. That’s better than any heart-shaped box of chocolates.”
But she doesn’t tell him how he did it, or why it’s better. Little Owl, and his young readers, get to figure those things out.
And then Little Owl looks at his reflection in the window and laughs. His heart-shaped face is staring back at him. “It’s not chocolate,” he says, “but I guess I did give you a heart-shaped gift after all! ME!”
The final page of the book is a sweet illustration of Grammy in her rocking chair with Little Owl on her lap. I wish there was no text on this last page, but Grammy says, “And that is the best gift of all.”
I think the illustration sums everything up nicely and the line isn’t needed to reinforce Little Owl’s own conclusion.
But no matter, I still love this book!
About These Reviews and Recommendations
My career as a children’s book editor, acquisitions editor, and editorial director greatly influences my response to books. I have seen a LOT of manuscripts and books. I have high standards for text, illustration, book design, and the purpose of a book. (This is a nice way of saying I am slightly jaded and quite particular.)
I understand too that parents, grandparents, and others who buy books want and need good value in the books you choose. Your book budget is not unlimited.
I’m not writing these reviews as hype or promotion for fellow author’s books. I do care about helping authors—after all, I am one. I understand the effort authors pour into every book and the hopes they have for each one. The books I recommend, however, I’m choosing because of the merit I see in the book, no other reason.
I want to point you to the best books more than I want to point out books I don’t like, so I won’t be writing negative reviews. If I can’t support a book, I just won’t write about it. At times, however, I may note details or features I would have changed in a book I otherwise recommend. This is to help you make your own decisions about what books are right for your family.