Saturday, May 05, 2007

One for Mothers (and Dads): I Love You the Purplest

Barbara Joosse and illustrator Mary Whyte have combined their talents in a parable to explain one of life's mysteries: how do parents love each child uniquely and yet the same?

In this story two very different boys vie for their mother's attention as they set out from the cabin on a fishing expedition. Quick, exuberant Max "explodes" from the cabin door, swinging his bait-digging shovel wildly; careful, deliberate Julian shuts the door tightly "to keep it safe from burglars and bears."

As they dig for worms, paddle the boat to their fishing hole, and make their day's catch, the two boys compete earnestly for their young mother's approval. In response to their repeated questions of "Who is best?" their mom finds something to praise in each boy's efforts. "Julian, you took the deepest strokes, and Max, your strokes were fastest."

When bedtime comes, each child whispers "Mama, who do you love best?" Mom tells Julian, "I love you the bluest," the blue of a dragonfly's wings, the deep shadows of a cave, the mist of a waterfall, the softness of a whisper.

To Max she says, "I love you the reddest," the color of a blazing sunset, a campfire's light, the warmth of a hug, the joy of a shout.

I have read this book to groups of children from Kindergartners to third graders, and when I asked "Why is this book named I Love You the Purplest?," even the youngest could tell me: "Red and blue make purple, and their mom loves them differently but the same." Poetry and symbolism are not wasted on the young!

If you know a mother with very different small children, she might appreciate having this book to read to them. She probably already knows that she loves each one as much as she can, but individually for the unique persons they are, but as a child it's always good to know that your mom has a special place in her heart where you are loved, for yourself, the best.

Other outstanding books that celebrate mothers are Barbara Joosse's earlier Mama, Do You Love Me?, Libba Gray's My Mama Had a Dancing Heart, Berkeley Breathed's new Mars Needs Moms, and for sheer rhyming fun, Deborah Guarino's and Steven Kellogg's Is Your Mama a Llama?. (For fun with this last one, try writing your own quatrain with the kids about the mom in your home!)

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