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What is Love?
Author: Mac Barnett
Illustrator: Carson Ellis
Publishing December 28, 2021 by Chronicle

Summary: 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.

Review: What is love? Adults and children will have a hard time defining it. It’s an abstract concept that is difficult to describe. A boy sets out to try to find the answer to this question. What I loved most about this book was that it wasn’t entirely serious—instead, this charming story has dabs of humor in it. Mac Barnett is just incredibly talented, and I’ve always loved the ways in which Carson Ellis’s illustrations capture the hearts of kids. I adored this book and think it will be one that readers of all ages will appreciate. It will leave them pondering—what is love to them?

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book offers words and images which attempt to describe an abstract concept. Readers might write their own versions of this book with a different concept. For instance, “What is joy?” or “What is hope?”

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is love?
  • What answers does the boy find?
  • How do the author and illustrator add humor to the story?
  • Which spread was your favorite, and why?
  • Why is love defined differently by each person he asks?
  • Although the boy said he didn’t find an answer, he tells his grandmother he did–what is his answer?

Flagged Passages: 

“She picked me up in her arms and said,

‘I can’t answer that.’

‘Who can?’ I asked.

‘If you go out into the world,

you might find an answer.'”

Read This If You Love: Books about Love

Recommended For: 

**Thank you to Chronicle Books for providing a copy for review!**

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