Book Review—Words to Love By

Somehow a picture book titled Words to Love By just feels like a good book for Valentine’s Day.

And this cheery, colorful exploration of how we use words to love others delivers well at Valentine’s or anytime.

“Words may be small, but they can do big things.”

What are some of those big things? Words can

encourage: “I believe in you.”

bring out the best in people: “I knew you could do it.”

spread love and kindness: “Do you need help?”

let others know they’re not alone: “Do you want to play with us?”

Words can

show respect: “Would you like to go first?”

show thankfulness: “Thank you. That makes me smile.”

heal relationships and build friendships: “I’m sorry.”

One of the best parts of the book is the many examples of words that bring about all these wonderful results. Throughout, the illustrations fit the text and clearly show the effects of the words being said.

The book is honest. We can use words to cause problems too.

Sometimes we say things in anger that we don’t really mean.

And once our words go out into the world, we can’t get them back. (The illustrations on this spread make it one of my favorites. A boy tries to capture his angry words in a butterfly net. A girl tries to scrub hers away. Very effective!)

Our words don’t only affect others, they influence our own lives too.

If we aren’t happy with the direction we’re going, choosing different words can get us headed toward a better outcome.

One spread in the book makes a clear reference to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 12:34-35, although neither the verses nor the reference are included: “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him.”

The opposite page says, “God wants you to have a heart filled with kindness and love.”

In all the examples in the book, the powerful effect of words is really the effect choosing to align our words and actions with God’s Word, although this is never stated.

Children will enjoy the simple, clear text in this book as well as taking in the many illustrations of words in action. The hand-lettered effect on the word examples adds color, charm, and energy to draw children in.

Just one wee caution.

The book begins with a little boy sadly studying a lonely looking older man sitting alone on a park bench. Then he joins the man on the bench for a conversation; the text we see is the boy saying “I love you.” The very last page shows the boy and the man, no longer lonely, sharing a hug.

It’s an example, of course, of how our words can change the lives of others, and it is sweetly done. But if you emphasize “stranger danger” with your children at all, you may want to have an explanation ready.

Words to Love By
written by Rick Warren, illustrated by Ag Jatkowska
published by Zonderkidz (2018)
hardcover, 32 pages, 9.2 x 0.2 x 11.3 inches

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 high standards for text, illustration, book design, and the purpose of a book.

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.

– Diane

2 Responses to “Book Review—Words to Love By”

  1. Reply Karisa

    There is no substitute for communicating love. A great review and beautiful book explaining the power of words to children.

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