The Beatles sang that all you need is love and while adults know this isn’t really true, for children that is the one thing that will ensure they grow into happy and confident people.
Show them some love by sharing books to explain this sometime complex topic, which will open up discussions about everything from familial love to that of the romantic type, and reassure them that they are very much loved as well.
Here are ten of our favourite picture books that touch on the subject in sensitive, heart-warming or witty ways. Perfect reads for Valentine’s Day – or any day.
- Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram. £6.99 (board book), Walker
If a book could embody the depth of a parent’s love for their child, this reassuring tale by Sam McBratney would be it. The simple story sees Little Nutbrown Hare try to demonstrate to his father how much he loves him, only for Big Nutbrown Hare to outdo every stretch and hop.
Illustrator Anita Jeram’s watercolour images have a gentle, pastoral feel that add to the aura of safety and warmth surrounding this classic bedtime favourite. And the final line as the doting daddy whispers to his sleeping baby “I love you right up to the moon – and back” would melt even the hardest of hearts. Available from Amazon
2. Love From The Crayons by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers. £6.99 (hardback), HarperCollins Children’s
Fans of the hilarious Day The Crayons Quit will love (sorry!) this little spin off version, which takes the colours of the different stars of the story and uses them to explore the different qualities love can have.
It’s sweet while displaying the same clever verbal and visual wit of the original, with phrases like “Love is brown… because sometimes love stinks” next to a drawing of a bear next to a poo. Anyone who knows the book will recognise plenty of in jokes but it’s equally enjoyable for others, as well as being more accessible for a younger audience because of the simpler text. Available from Amazon
3. This Love by Isabel Otter and Harriet Lynas. £7.99 (paperback), Caterpillar Books
The universal nature of love as an emotion uniting the human race is the subject of this rhyming book with beautiful international artwork. It depicts children from the African plains to the snowy fields of the north experiencing care and affection from different family members, friends and their community as they play, celebrate and learn.
Showing love to others as well as the planet’s flora and fauna is also addressed, and there’s a lovely device of a rainbow cut-out which runs through the book as the pages are turned. It’s all particularly poignant in light of the pandemic and ends by bringing the focus back to family, showing the child from the first spread welcoming a treasured new sibling. Available from Amazon
4. You Complete Me. £6.99 (board book), Caterpillar Books
The toddler adores this quirky food-themed board book so much, we can devour it five times in a row and he is still hungry for more. The simple text takes a few phrases about loving relationships and turns them into cheesy-in-a-good way puns, using couples made from edibles to demonstrate.
The artwork is brightly coloured and cheery, with clever cut outs that unite the phrases over page turns (so two separate peas become peas in a pod, for example). The characters have a sweet Japanese anime feel to them, a bit like Pokemon, with friendly eyes and smiling faces, which always raises a smile from my littlest one too. Available from Amazon
5. Frog In Love by Max Velthuijs. £6.99 (paperback), Andersen
This first book in the legendary Dutch author Max Veltuijs’s Frog series is a touching and sensitive exploration of both those first confusing feelings of attraction to another and the beauty of diversity and difference. It sees Frog fall head over heels for Duck but he is too shy to tell her and paints her a picture, sends her flowers and tries to demonstrate his jumping prowess instead.
Will she reciprocate his feelings?
There is a fable-like feel to this and all the Frog stories, which make them timeless and meaningful. The colourful drawings are wonderfully expressive too. You can see lovesickness dripping from Frog as he longs to share his feelings with Duck. Just gorgeous. Available from Amazon
6. Peek-a-boo Baby: I Love You. Illustrated by Zoe Waring. £5.99 (board book), Pat-a-Cake
Your baby will love discovering who is behind the flaps of this reassuring book based around a game of peek-a-boo. Each of the spreads features a close-up face with hand flaps to lift and reveal the eyes, with an extra reward of a rhyme about being loved and an invitation to blow a kiss.
The repetitive language will help them to recognise what is coming next while the interactive elements are hugely engaging and great for developing coordination. Bonus points for a mix of ethnicities and genders within the characters too. Available from Amazon
7. I Love You More and More by Nicky Benson and Jonny Lambert. £4.99 (board book), Little Tiger Press
This sweet board book about a bear’s love for their cub uses metaphors about nature to reassure your child how much they mean to their parent.
The text has a gentle rhyming lilt while the scenes are filled with soothing scenes of wildlife and landscapes through day and night, which your baby will love to look at. Available from Amazon
8. The Boy Who Loved Everyone by Jane Porter and Maisie Paradise Shearring. £7.99 (paperback), Walker
Telling another person that you love them is a wonderful gesture but there are lots of ways to express your feelings, as new boy at school Dimitri discovers in this hug of a book.
The lad tells everyone from his classmates and dinner lady to the trees and ants that he loves them, but no one says it back. When he frets about it to his mum and fears that no one likes him, she points out how preparing food, asking you to join in or giving a hug can say as much as any words.
Alongside this gorgeous sentiment in the writing of Jane Porter, the illustrations by Maisie Shearring are just charming and capture the chaotic atmosphere of a nursery school. Apparently Maisie visited art classes run by Jane to sketch the kids to make the images true to life and this attention to detail shines through completely. Available from Amazon
9. Dinosaurs In Love by Fenn Rosenthal and Hannah Jacobs. £6.99 (paperback), Orchard
You may recognise this prehistoric love story from the song written by three-year-old Fenn Rosenthal, as it became a viral sensation when her dad Tom shared in on Twitter in January 2020 and the YouTube video has had 2.25 million hits and counting.
The book version takes Fenn’s sweet take on the dinosaur tale all kids learn at school and sets it to joyous artwork, showing dinosaurs eating people and cucumber, falling in love, partying and saying thank you before a big bang comes and they die without saying goodbye. Love, life and loss as seen by a child, all in a few simple pages. Available from Amazon
10. Love from Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees. £6.99 (board book), Orchard
Gerald the Giraffe gets his dancing shoes on for this heartwarming spin-off from the bestselling story. This chunky board book is designed to be read aloud to your child, as Giles Andreae uses joyful rhyming text to tell the listener how much the reader loves them.
Metaphors centre on music, movement and being loved for just who you are, all good messages to share with your little one before bed. Available from Amazon