What Is Love?

what is love mac barnett

A beautiful fable about the nature of love, from beloved, award-winning picture book creators Mac Barnett and Carson Ellis.

"What is love?" a young boy asks. "I can't answer that," his grandmother says, and so the boy goes out into the world to find out. But while each person he meets—the fisherman, the actor, and others—has an answer to his question, not one seems quite right. Could love really be a fish, or applause, or the night? Or could it actually be something much closer to home? This tender, funny tale is an original take on the "I love you" story, a picture book treasure for all ages to read and cherish.

A CLASSIC LOVE STORY: A wonderful narrative voice and spectacular pictures give this book the feel of a modern classic. Fans of The Runaway Bunny, Guess How Much I Love You, and Love You Forever will adore this book.

A BOOK THAT KIDS AS WELL AS PARENTS WILL ENJOY: Many books about the love between parents and children are told from an adult's point of view. This book begins from the child's perspective, and it's funny and unexpected in ways that children can relate to, while being thoughtful in ways that adults will appreciate. Like all great children's books, this book can be understood on many levels.

A BOOK ABOUT FINDING YOURSELF: The boy's journey takes him to many different people, whose descriptions of what love means to them is very much about how they see themselves and their lives.

A GREAT READ-ALOUD: The engaging text is full of surprises and the distinctive voice of the narrator invites audiences to respond.

STAR TALENT: Mac Barnett is a New York Times bestselling author and a beloved figure on the school speaking circuit. Carson Ellis is a Caldecott Honor-winner and illustrator of some of the most interesting and beautiful children's books published today. They're an incredible creative duo and long-time friends, working together for the first time on this book.---from the publisher

44 pages                                978-1452176406                            Ages 4-8

Keywords:  love, parents, grandmother, adventure, 4 year old, 5 year old, 6 year old, 7 year old, 8 year old


“If I fell in love with you

Would you promise to be true

And help me understand?

‘Cuz I’ve been in love before

And I’ve found that love is more

Than just holding hands.”

-- Lennon/McCartney (1964)

“The farmer told me love is a seed.

This soldier told me love is a blade.

That soldier told me love is a horse.

But the cart driver said, ‘No, it’s a donkey.’

A sports car, a donut, a lizard, a ring

The first snow of winter, a maple in summer.

A grizzly bear, this pebble right here--

these are all things people told me love is.”

As a child, I learned about love from watching how my grandfather opened the door to his ‘61 Bonneville for my grandmother. I learned about it from Lennon and McCartney, Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews, and Wilbur the pig and Charlotte the spider.

I’m still learning.

The narrator of WHAT IS LOVE? asks his grandmother, “What is love?” His grandma picks him up in her arms, tells him that she cannot answer that, and sends him out into the world to search for the answer. After journeying and seeing how others view love as that to which they are connected and care about, the narrator returns home, picks his grandmother up in his arms, and let’s her know that he has found his answer.

Carson Ellis employs gouache on watercolor paper to create fanciful illustrations that feature the delightfully zany cast of humans, animals, and inanimate objects that assist the narrator in his quest for the answer.

Preschoolers will be captivated by the whimsical adventure, while older children will also appreciate the philosophical nature of the tale. It will readily lend itself to contemplation, discussion, and written reactions.

Mac Barnett hits the sweet spot between fun and thoughtful. I love it!

Recommended by:  Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA

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