Every month I write about one of my favourite inspiring picture/children’s books from my bookshelves because they are so wonderful that I can’t help sharing. My pick for February 2017 is Feelings written by Libby Walden and illustrated by Richard Jones (Caterpillar Books 2016).
You know it’s February, a month of love, when you see red hearts and roses everywhere you go. If you’re single, those cuddly teddy bears holding red hearts make you ‘ugh’. If you’re in a romantic relationship, you’re full of excitement, planning a candle-lit dinner. February air becomes thick with all sorts of emotions and feelings.
Last week I went through my bookshelves, looking for a picture book about love to celebrate Valentine’s Day. My hands went strait to Guess How Much I Love You written by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram (Walker Books 2008), which I love right up to the moon and back (I have a copy but I’m so tempted to buy the 20th anniversary edition too). But I thought it’s too obvious. Then, I realised I didn’t have a picture book about love on my bookshelves. I do have lots of books about friendships, sibling and parental love, but not ‘romantic’ love. I wish I had a copy of となりのせきのますだくん (Tonari no seki no Masuda-kun), a Japanese picture book about a girl and her classmate who bullies her because he likes her. It would have made a perfect choice.
Actually, I couldn’t think of any other picture books featuring romantic stories off the top of my head. This got me think if picture book readers (under 6 yo) are too young for romantic love? I personally disagree. I’m talking from my experience. I proposed a older boy to marry me when I was four (he was five). I did the grand romantic gesture in the kindergarten courtyard in broad daylight. Back then I was romantic, assertive and possibly feminist (who says it has to be men to propose?). Actually, I vaguely remember that I wanted to marry him mostly because I wanted to wear a big white dress…
Anyway, whatever my motivation was, I picked the boy as my future husband to be for a reason or two. I must have liked him enough to embarrass myself in front of my peers and teachers (or I was just desperate to wear a white dress). Sadly, I’m pretty sure it didn’t go down well otherwise why am I still single? So, at age of four, I must have gone through a whirlwind of emotions that romance can throw at you, and I’ve no idea how I dealt with it since I still struggle to comprehend my feelings sometime. Children are basically tiny humans who feel as much as big humans do, and trying to make sense of those strange sensations – sometime fuzzy, sometime prickly – bobbling up inside them could be overwhelming.
This is why I picked Feelings for this month. This book explores all sorts of emotions children experience. Libby Walden‘s lyrical text describes each emotion beautifully like a poem. Her words wonderfully capture what dictionary definitions miserably fail to do:
“Happy: Dancing to the rhythm of a noisy steel-drum band at a party where the sun beans down and warms the soft white sand. There’s cheerful laughter in the air, the ocean’s cool and fine; the colours of the island glow in the hot sunshine.”
Walden talks about the book in depth here.
Richard Jones‘ gentle yet playful illustrations are perfect complement to the text, filling the gaps that the words can’t fully express. I’m a big fan of Jones. His illustrations are dynamic yet sensitive, colourful yet gentle. You can check out ‘behind the scene’ of this book on his website. By the way, my favourite spread in this book is ‘Jealousy’.
Young kids probably don’t understand the concept of Valentine’s Day. Yet, this book might help them get ready for romance and all sorts of emotions that come with it in the future 😉