How Do I Love You? by Leslie Kimmelman, pictures by Lisa McCue.
“How do I love you, little one? Let me count the ways…” says the mama alligator. (Or maybe it’s the daddy; who can tell with alligators?) And she begins to name all the ways she adores her young’un, much to my own young’un’s delight.
“Twelve, I’ll love you when you’re grown; thirteen, I love you small,” I read. “Read that part again, Mommy,” Beanie begs. She caught me in the midst of my Tasmanian-devil impersonation as I was whirling through the house trying to get it ready to go on the market (which it now officially is, gulp) and asked me to read this book to her, and when we snuggled up together on the couch with the smell of Windex still lingering in the air, the look on her face was like the end of a Mastercard commercial. Putting your house on the market on the spur of the moment: Hours of labor. Reading to your kid even though the realtor is about to walk in the door and the house ISN’T READY YET: Priceless.
“Read that part again!”
She loves those lines, about how the mama will love her little one when she’s grown and loves her when she’s small. At the end of the book she turns back to that page and asks me to read it “two more times.” The art makes her giggle: now the baby alligator is grinning at its reflection in funhouse mirrors. And the breadth of the mama’s assertions of love seem infinitely satisfying to this five-year-old lass.
It’s a simple book, and a sweet one. The art is lively and fun, whimsically painted in a palette of greens and blues—cool colors that manage to convey deep warmth. This parent and child adore one another, and that’s what my little girl wants to hear.
“Fourteen fifteen sixteen
each silly dance you do,
or spin you spin, or grin you grin
when you try something new.”
Eventually the alligator pair runs out of fingers and toes to count off, and the mama says that “when it comes to loving you, well, twenty’s not enough.” The little alligator is glowing with glee by this point, and Beanie’s face mirrors that emotion.
“Go back to twelve,” she says, snuggling in a little closer.
The Windex will just have to wait.
And suddenly it was June.
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“A generation ago, there was no general conspiracy among writers to protect children.”